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Thyme, Gloucestershire – best plot to plate cookery school
Set on the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire border, the Thyme cookery school makes the most of the fact it’s part of a 150-acre working farm surrounded by meadows.
Classes often start in the kitchen garden, showing guests how the produce is grown before harvesting for their menu, and cooking under the guidance of the Thyme chefs. The Instinctive Cook is Thyme’s flagship course, exploring seasonal flavour combinations.
Whether it’s for a dinner party, baking bread or learning how to make cocktails, shrubs, cordials and syrups with herbs and seasonal fruits, these relaxed, hands-on courses often feature tastings and a lunch. You can also extend your visit with stay in the luxury grounds and dine at the newly opened Ox Barn on site (click here to read our full review), or The Swan pub across the road, which is all owned by the same family.
Pie Room, London – best pastry school
For an intimate lesson in pies and pastry work from one of the world’s leading experts, look no further than olive Chef Awards winner Calum Franklin. Now offering two-and-a-half-hour hands-on masterclasses from his ornate ‘pie room’ at Holborn Dining Room, Calum shows between two and eight guests how to make the perfect pork pie, followed by a G&T in the neighbouring Gin Bar, and a candlelit three-course dinner.
The £250 price tag also includes an apron and the recipes to take home, and, of course, the pies themselves.
Exeter Cookery School – best cookery school with a view
Occupying a stunning location on the Devon city’s historic quayside, Exeter Cookery School prides itself on running “fun and friendly” cookery courses. Owners Jim and Lucy Fisher ran a cookery school in France for 15 years before returning to the UK to open in Exeter in 2016.
In the two years since they opened in a converted 1830s warehouse, this dynamic couple have gained a reputation for running one of the most respected cookery schools in the South West. Former MasterChef semi-finalist Jim worked alongside Rick Stein in Padstow and Alastair Little in Notting Hill before turning his hand to teaching.
Overlooking the canal basin next to a canoe centre, the school is perfectly placed in an area that’s fast becoming Exeter’s food and activity hub. Each course is packed with cheffy tips, tricks and techniques honed by Jim in busy restaurant kitchens but adapted to use in the home, and designed to make cooking for family and friends easy and stress-free.
New courses for 2019 include Indian cookery with guest chef Nila Ross-Patel (click here for the best Indian cookery courses across the UK), cheese-making courses with Louise Talbot, and a butchery masterclass with Peter Greig of Pipers Farm.
Kaleyard, Glasgow – best community service cookery school
Founded by author and cookery teacher Sumayya Usmani, Kaleyard (meaning ‘kitchen garden’) is Glasgow’s first non-profit social enterprise school for cooks and its mission statement is to “unite people through cooking, eating and sharing food together”. Sumayya says she believes anybody can make affordable, seasonal and healthy food from scratch by grasping the basics of cooking, and she is a firm believer in giving people the confidence to cook.
Using profits from its masterclasses and pop-up events, Kaleyard offers free or subsidised cookery classes to different community groups and schools across Glasgow. Helped by volunteers and supporters, Sumayya’s classes range from Scottish cookery and baking, to food photography and writing, and forthcoming subjects include South Indian cook and dine; summer fermentations and gut health; and knife skills and basic no-waste cookery.
Leeds Cookery School – best cookery school with a conscience
Based in an old fire station just outside the city centre, Leeds Cookery School calls itself a cookery school with a conscience. All the profit it makes goes back to help local charity Zest, which offers support and opportunities to disadvantaged local people, addressing health inequalities and social isolation through activities which improve physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing.
There are more than 30 classes on offer, all taught by trained chefs such as cookery school manager Simon Chappelow, who has worked at many top restaurants across Yorkshire. The lessons range from hour-long classes to whole-day courses and include patisserie, chocolate-making, pie-baking and fish and seafood preparation.
There’s also a junior cookery course (for children aged 12 and over) that includes how to make bread, pizza, risotto, curry and different types of pastry.
Cannon & Cannon Meat School, Surrey – best meat cookery school
Award-winning British charcuterie retailer Cannon & Cannon has recently relaunched its popular Meat School in Weybridge, Surrey. A collaboration with Tempus Charcuterie’s founders Tom Whitaker and Dhruv Baker, the masterclasses cover all aspects of curing meat, including how to make your own bacon, a meat and booze matching evening, and smoking and curing at home.
One of the highlights of the calendar is the intensive, hands-on Pig Weekend Masterclass (£490 per person) which guides people through the complete range of processes, including pig butchery, curing, salami production, fermentation, casing and ageing (click here for our guide to making charcuterie at home). The charcuterie prepared over the weekend is kept in a custom-built ageing room until it has slow-aged to perfection, when it will be sent home to the students to enjoy.
The Grand, York – best state-of-the-art cookery school
Part of a £15 million expansion and refurbishment at The Grand in York, this new cookery school is aimed at home cooks of all abilities but there’s also academy classes for those looking to advance their skills. A stunning open-plan design includes bi-folding doors and glass panelling connecting the spaces which are flooded with natural light.
The school has 16 workstations, each equipped with a top-of-the-range induction hob, electric oven and premium cookery equipment. Sessions range from £65 for a half day to full-day courses from £145. Guests will learn how to prepare dishes focussed on fresh local produce.
The purpose-built space offers an adjoining meeting area as well as a separate screening room for lectures and talks, with an external courtyard complete with herb garden and seating area. And it’s not just adults who are welcome – children have the opportunity to get involved with bespoke classes during the school holidays.
WSET School, across the country – best drinks school
Though known in the drinks industry for its specialist qualifications in wine, spirits and sake, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust also offers courses to suit a novice looking to deepen their knowledge. Its Level 1 Award in Spirits is an accessible one-day course where students explore the basics of spirit production, the main categories and styles – from brandy to tequila – and how different factors, such as distillation methods or barrel ageing, can affect flavour.
The content does get a little technical at times but this is balanced by an accessible teaching style, plenty of recapping throughout and the chance to sample lots of different spirits. The latter is one of the most rewarding aspects of the course, as students are guided through tutored tastings that show them how to describe and appreciate each spirit, from aroma and intensity to palate and finish. The day finishes with an exam of multiple-choice questions, and passing gives a qualification that makes a great launch pad for higher WSET awards.
The Level 1 Award in Spirits is available across the country (visit the website for a list of approved programme providers). Prices vary but a course at the flagship WSET School London costs £175. It also offers a version of the course that takes in private tours of two London gin distilleries, split over two dates (27 April & 4 May; £185).
Best classic cookery schools
The esteemed cookery schools that have been at the top of their game for years…
Open since 2001, Demuths in Bath is run by Rachel Demuth, one of the UK’s leading plant-focussed chefs. Classes aren’t just for vegetarians and vegans – there’s an extensive range of courses and Rachel says “anything fermented” is in high demand at the moment, especially how to make your own fermented vegan cheese, as well as classes on Ethiopian and Korean cuisine. Click here for the best vegetarian and vegan cookery courses across the UK.
River Cottage, Devon
Celebrating 20 years in 2019, Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall’s River Cottage HQ and cookery school on the Dorset/Devon border has stuck to its ethos of using the best ingredients, sustainably and locally sourced, and sharing knowledge and inspiration through a wide variety of courses and events.
This anniversary year will see a number of special events and new courses, including a seasonal fermentation workshop in July with writer Rachel de Thample, and a gluten-free and dumplings course in June with Naomi Devlin, who will cover gut-friendly recipes for gyoza, ramen, sweet dumplings, gnocchi and noodles.
Leiths School of Food and Wine, London
Since Leiths was founded by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave in 1975, it has become a respected leader in culinary training and continues to move with the latest food trends, tapping into a broad range of cooking styles, including home smoking and preserving. And for those home cooks unable to travel to London, there’s even an online course for Leiths’ Essential Cooking Certificate so you can learn through your smartphone or tablet.
Raymond Blanc Cookery School, Oxfordshire
With its two Michelin stars, the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire remains one of the UK’s best-known restaurants and hotels but its Raymond Blanc Cookery School is now a destination in its own right.
Overseen by head tutor Mark Peregrine (who worked with Blanc to win the first Michelin star more than 30 years ago), the school offers a wide range of courses, from half-day introductions to residential programmes, including dinner party masterclasses and children’s cookery courses.
New for 2019 is a full-day vegan course, launching in March, which will teach guests how to create healthy, nutritionally balanced vegan meals.
The School of Artisan Food, Nottinghamshire
For those looking to transform from keen foodie to pro, Nottinghamshire’s School of Artisan Food covers all aspects of artisan food production – covering short courses (from cheese-making and curing, to brewing and butchering) through to full-time diplomas (such as the six-month advanced diploma in artisan baking). As a registered charity, the school, which turns 10 this year, also offers bursaries.
The Bertinet Kitchen, Bath
The Bath cookery school run by French baker and chef Richard Bertinet has become the go-to place to learn about bread and patisserie. To mark the publication of his new book, Crumb, Bertinet will run five-day baking courses.
The spring schedule at the school also includes a polenta masterclass and how to make a showstopping layer cake.
Ashburton Cookery School, Devon
Now into its 27th year, the Ashburton Cookery School on the edge of the Dartmoor National Park in Devon is one of the most established in the country and its team of tutors include several chefs who previously worked in some of the South West’s top eateries, including Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Cornwall and The Horn of Plenty in Devon.
Whether it’s a half-day sushi course or a 10-day course for aspiring yacht chefs, there is something for all abilities. The cookery school even has rooms for those who want to stay overnight.
Written by Mark Taylor