From a cookery school run by, and catering for, chocoholics to another chock-a-block with books, the following six schools offer something a little unique. What unifies them all is the pure passion of the individuals involved, whether it’s a former fishmonger with an impressive scale of experience or a family run farm shop, these people get to the heart of cookery.
Swift House Cookery School
Caroline Phillips trained at both Ashburton and Leiths cookery schools, before setting up Swift House in the Weald of Kent with a team of experienced chefs. The school delivers “professional standard” courses that are “a great deal of fun”, while leaving room for the absolute beginner. Caroline has a background in baking, pastry and chocolate and her sponsorship from Belgian chocolate academy, Callebaut informs many aspects of the school, which runs chocolate parties for kids and provides a bespoke handmade cake service. Classes are kept to a maximum 8 students and cost between £100 and £125 for six hours. In addition to cake, chocolate and truffle-making classes, the ‘spice of life’ is evident in a variety of world cuisine courses, including Indian and Thai.
Contact: Swift House, Bethersden, Kent TN26 3AG
Tel: 01233 820040; mobile: 07771871111
Oakwood Cookery School
Formerly the first UK roadside motel, this gloriously incongruous cook school has been converted from an upstairs ballroom, illuminated by the originally featured stained-glass windows. Both produce and tuition is sourced locally, with an impressive roster of professionals plucked from nearby businesses who use their specific skill sets across a variety of classes. Up to 12 students can participate in hands-on courses that promise to be friendly and informal, and include evening courses like Indian Curry Night, Chocoholics Delight, and Celebration of Spring. Classes last three hours and cost £45, whilst six-hour courses, such as Catch of the Day, are £100. There is a strong emphasis on cooking for kids, with a 6 years + class, Parent and Child Cookery and free birthday parties hosted regularly by the school for local children and their friends.
Contact: Oakwood Cookery School, The Oakwood, Forres Road, Elgin, IV30 8UN
Tel: 01343 541285
The Cookshelf Cookschool and Cafe
Inspired by a Looking to Cook favourite, Notting Hill’s Books for Cooks, this cookery school, shop, cafe and ode to the personal cookbook collection, opened in February 2013 within the petit, pristine premises on North Street in Eastbourne. Tutors from the surrounding area cater to the sweet-toothed with classes such as Iced Biscuits, Marvellous Macarons and Cupcakery and Sugarcraft, but there is also Bread for Beginners, A Taste of Greece and Simple Pasta and Sauce. Prices are very reasonable, ranging from £24.50 to £55 for a single class, with a four-week Introduction to Cooking Workshop costing just £120. Classes take a maximum 8 participants who get recipes, refreshments, lunch, food to take home, and a 10 per cent discount off anything in the shop, included in the price.
Contact: North Street, Eastbourne, BN21 3HG
Tel: 01323 732280
Streamcombe Cookery School
An ancient stone barn seems the ideal setting for this rustic and charming cookery school that sits on the borders of Exmoor National Park, Somerset and Devon. Courses emphasise provenance and seasonality, with each “very hands-on” course including an opportunity to forage for wild foods. Karen and Ian Jarmarkier opened Streamcombe as a B&B in 2009, with the subsequent cookery school a logical progression of the latter’s passion for local, natural and “honest” food. Largely self-taught, Ian Jarmarkier also boasts prior experience as head of the food and innovation centre for a major supermarket, something which saw him run cookery courses and cater for industry titans such as Prue Leith and Jamie Oliver. Classes at the school include Game and Seasonal Inspiration, Fish Cookery and Baking and Desserts. Lunch and refreshments are included in a seven-hour class priced at £120 per person, and there’s a 25 per cent discount on the B&B. Sizes are kept to a minimum to ensure a dedicated teaching style, with the intriguing Taste andTechniques involving just 6 participants, each individually tasked with creating their own dishes.
Contact: Ian Jarmarkier, Streamcombe Cookery School, Streamcombe Farm, Dulverton, Somerset, TA22 9SA
Tel: 01398 322873
For the Love of Fish
There is nothing ‘lost at sea’ about the ethos of Kirsty Cruickshank’s cookery school, where fresh ‘shoals’ of fish and seafood are filleted, sliced, spiced and diced during four-hour classes, priced at £70, run mainly from her home in Ovingham, Northumberland. Her wonderful website is a huge haul of musings, recipes and news where keen cooks can hook a class and catch the latest events which include Fish Cookery Days and Cookery and Kitchen Equipment Demos that take place in the North East. Kirsty’s love of fish, and food in general, has seen a lifetime of inspiration from various sources that include her mother’s home cooking, Leiths School of Food and Wine, local fishmongers and experience running and cooking in cafes and her own fishmongers in Hexham, where she hosted a night class, ‘Fabulous Fish’. Class sizes in Kirsty’s Kitchen are capped at 10 and she offers a bespoke masterclass for two people at their own home.
The Beckett’s Farm Shop was awarded best in the Midlands by the BBC Good Food Show and they were Family Business of the Year at the 2012 Family Business Awards, a stamp of quality that will likely bolster the success of their dedicated cookery school. The ‘Orange Kitchen’ is fitted with six workstations that can be reserved for £70 individually or shared for £110 in any given class. These last three hours and cover a wide range that includes Beer and Butchery, Food Fusion, Caribbean Cooking and Classic Desserts. Children’s classes aim to nurture the budding chef for participant 8 – 15 year-olds, cost £35 per workstation and promote healthy, well-balanced nutrition. These take place during school holidays but birthday parties for kids are run all year round, whilst parties for adults are bespoke, with suggested themes that include Ladies High Tea and Chocolate Challenge. Team Building days feature a frisson of thrills with the likes of Ready, Steady, Cook! and The Tractor Challenge.
Contact: A.E. Beckett & Sons Ltd, Heath Farm, Alcester Road, Wyhtall, Birmingham, B47 6AJ
Tel: 01564 823 402