The third annual UK Cookery School of the Year Awards, a nationwide competition showcasing the best work in cookery schools, announces its 2014 winners today.
The awards are run in association with Tabasco Pepper Sauce to highlight outstanding achievements in an industry that teaches thousands of us to become more creative in the kitchen. As in the previous two years, choosing an overall winner from shortlists featuring such talented and hard working schools has been a bit like trying to cook a souffle blindfolded.
The winners and runners-up in each category are as follows:
Best cookery school
Winner: Bettys Cookery School, Harrogate, Yorkshire
Runner-up: Foodworks, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Bettys is a hive of industry. The school brings together all of the best elements of a winning cookery school from expert, “nurturing” staff to innovation in courses and from an on-site craft bakery to free bread making courses for school children. The judges were particularly impressed with how the school is attuned to its customers’ needs, allowing them to cook individually rather than in pairs. They even have one customer who will soon be attending her 100th course. The school will win a grand prize of a glass gallon jug of Tabsaco.
Foodworks is a worthy runner-up, covering a broad remit from dynamic corporate classes to social outreach projects where excess food from classes is shared with a local residential home for the elderly and lots in between. Having access to the produce of Colesbourne Estate, where the school is located, is a bonus and a boost to its sustainable commitments – a recent class was able to cook with fresh crayfish caught in its streams.
Best day cookery course
Winner: Feathered and Furred, White Pepper Cookery School, Dorset
Runner-up: Fish and Seafood class, Food at 52 , London
Courses are so thoughtfully crafted by Luke Stuart and his team down at the White Pepper Cookery School. Even the name of his Feathered and Furred class piques your interest and the course is gripping from start to finish. It comprises active forays in the Dorset countryside, hands-on acquisition of new skills back in the kitchen and is rounded off with a true field-to-fork meal. Food at 52 offers a similar ‘holistic’ experience in the city, the highlight of which is often the collaborative, dinner party finale in its cool kitchen.
Best baking course (sponsored by Brioche Pasquier)
Winner: WI’s Baking Weekender, Denman College, Oxfordshire
Runner-up: Five-day Baking Course, Squires International Kitchen, Surrey
Our new baking award was among the most hotly contested this year. So high was the quality of entries that we could have made a second shortlist. It’s a tough call pitting the small, artisan millers against large established schools but we found the sell-out Women’s Institute Weekend Baking course at Denman College hard to beat. It’s a two-night residential that covers a lot of ground from chocolate potato cake to royal icing. Squires Kitchen, too, has been perfecting baking for nearly as long as the WI (30 years) and really have honed their accessible classes and choice of tutors to a fine art form.
Best community focused cookery school
Winner: Chequers Kitchen Cookery School, Deal, Kent
Runner-up: Jamie’s Ministry of Food, north of England
The most community focused school is, perhaps, our favourite category. It’s where many of you get to tell us about the wonderfully generous ways in which you are supporting local people and projects. Stephanie Hayman at Chequers Kitchen in Kent came out on top for her classes that support low-income families and others with learning disabilities. Jamie’s Recipease cookery schools might have closed down recently in Battersea and Brighton but his Ministry of Food clubs provide a safe and affordable environment for people to learn the basics of cookery in less fashionable corners of the country.
Best cookery school tutor
Winner: Carole Rose, Cookies Cooking School
Runner-up: Christine McFadden, Dorset
We couldn’t really argue with the support, loyalty and love that was showered on Carole Rose for the best tutor award. In her own words she has been teaching kids to cook healthy food in a fun way long before Jamie himself showed up with his pestle and mortar. Likewise, Christine McFadden continues to command a loyal following in Dorset with her inspired, innovative and meticulously researched classes.
Most Sustainable Cookery School, in association with the Sustainable Restaurant Association:
Runners-up: River Cottage and the Cookery School
We were delighted to see a number of schools interested in our most sustainable cookery school award diligently overseen by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. On top of all the other boxes to tick when running a small business it’s not always easy being accountable to the environment but plenty of schools are aiming high. Daylesford is setting a great example, followed closely by River Cottage and the Cookery School in London, and you can read how here.
Best ‘diploma’ cookery course
Winner: Professional Cookery Diploma, Rosemary Shrager Cookery School, Kent
Runner-up: Demuths Vegetarian Diploma, Bath
Rosemary Shrager is a culinary force in her own right and she has cleverly added “professional” courses to the impressive portfolio at her pristine cookery school in Tunbridge Wells. Her diploma is linked to an apprenticeship scheme that helps young people to kickstart their careers. Demuths’ eight-day vegetarian diploma, is perhaps the only one of its sort in the country and does what it says on the tin to the usual high standards of the school’s founder and boss Rachel Demuth. They introduce a vegan and professional diploma next year.
Best cookery school website
There are lots of compelling cookery school websites out there and, it has to be said, a fair share of turkeys. We picked Philleigh Way for its freshness, colour and simplicity. The bold images, quirky team profiles and easy navigation of scheduled courses not only reflected the family-run, roll-your-sleeves-up, down-on-the-Cornish-farm vibe well but made you want to sign up. Vanessa Kimbell of Sourdough Bread Making has created a stylish, long-form website with a home-spun, artisanal feel perfectly suited to her baking classes and her interest in baking heritage.
Eyes on the prize: The cookery school of the year – Bettys – has the prestige of its new title and the chance to sport a winner’s badge on its website. It also wins a year’s free Premium membership to Looking to Cook and, last but not least, a gallon jug of Tabasco worth around £80.
Many thanks to all the schools who entered this year’s awards. We look forward to receiving your entries to next year’s UK Cookery School Awards in 2015.