Whether you’re looking to hone your own skills or searching for the perfect Christmas gift, take a look at these top cookery schools right on our doorstep for the ultimate foodie inspiration
You never really stop learning when it comes to making food. From mastering the perfect rise on a soufflé to avoiding the dreaded soggy bottom on a quiche, who doesn’t love a top tip? And while there’s plenty of information for us to chew over on the TV, in cookery books, in magazines (Crumbs, anyone?) and on the internet – especially YouTube – nothing beats the hands-on, one-on-one tuition of a cookery class.
A cookery school will allow you to get your mitts dirty under the supervision of an expert, lets you ask questions as they arise, and even – more often than not – provides a feast at the end, based on the fruits of your labour. And even better, nowadays you can take a course in just about anything. Whether you simply want to nail the timings for the Christmas roast, or – more ambitious! – take your baking hobby to the next level and go pro, there’s a course out there for you. Now you just have to decide which one it is…
Angela Gray’s Cookery School – South Wales
Just 20 minutes from Cardiff, and set in the rolling Glamorganshire countryside, lies Llanerch Vineyard. The estate’s award- winning wine, Cariad, is only one of the reasons for avid foodies to visit, though; food writer and broadcaster Angela Gray has her own school here too. There’s a range of one- and two-day courses, as well as two-and-a-half-hour taster sessions. Angela’s popular Saturday Morning Kitchen demonstrations (£10pp) offer plenty of tasters, or there’s the Cookstart Academy, aimed at getting young chefs into the kitchen. Our full-day Autumn Italian Kitchen course (£160) provided plenty of tips and tricks. Seafood risotto, ossobuco, mushroom ragu, homemade gnocchi and Tuscan bean soup were all on the menu, so there was plenty of food to take home to impress the family with. A late lunch means it’s well worth having a big brekkie before you go, and don’t forget your Tupperware and a pair of Marigolds – lots of cooking means lots of washing up!
Ashburton Cookery School – Devon
Named this year’s Cookery School of the Year by Food and Travel Magazine, Ashburton’s reputation far extends its South West location. There are more than 40 courses to choose from, ranging from one-day workshops to four-week diplomas, suiting a range of abilities, and all are taught by professional chefs. Expect every type of class to be covered here, from world cuisine (Thai, Indian and Italian) to particular skills (breadmaking, sauces, fish and seafood) to specialist days on perfecting Christmas dinner, making edible Christmas gifts and hosting dinner parties. There are weekend, five-day and professional courses available too, including a 20-week Professional Culinary Diploma. One-day courses start at £165, while you’re looking at £15,995 to go pro.
Baby Bites – Bristol
Like our regular, family-friendly recipe columns from local chef Louise Barnard? Then you’ll love her Bristol-based classes, designed to demystify the weaning and feeding process. Louise has created the classes as a chance for new mums and dads to cook, share tips, and socialise. Ingredients are organic, Louise will talk you through good eating habits and nutrition, and together you will cook at least six portions of food for the little ones. Babies and children are welcome, obvs.
Prices start at £30 for a half-day intensive class on weaning for babies, aged four months-plus, while four weekly classes on weaning cost £100.
The Balmy Kitchen – Bath
Laraine Hare’s cookery school, in the basement kitchen of her Georgian town house, is all about relaxed home cooking with friends. Courses are short and sweet – they last four hours – with a demo, a bit of all-hands-on-board prep, and a three- course meal with wine at the end. As author of Bath’s Luscious Larder, Laraine makes it a priority to source all her ingredients locally. Rather than have set classes on set dates, you can call Loraine and tailor the session to suit your ability and tastes; everything from Italian and Thai to Moroccan is on the menu. Classes start at £50 per person for groups of nine or more, or up to £90 for a private lesson.
The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School
Home of French master baker Richard Bertinet, this school – set at the top of Bath – is perfect for those that want to take baking their seriously. Richard’s bread and pastry courses sell out months in advance (covering everything from sourdoughs and Italian breads to croissants and French patisserie) and come in one-day, three-day and five-day installments, depending on how much you love your loaf. Such is the school’s national reputation that Richard also manages to attract all of the biggest names to guest chef – so you can learn to make pasta with Valentina Harris one day, couture chocolate with William Curley the next and Mauritian meals with Shelina Permaloo the day after that. Most day courses cost £150-200, but if you book in for five days you are looking at up to £925.
Bordeaux Quax – Bristol
Bordeaux Quay’s cookery school programme is split into three categories: evening-class Essentials (where you can learn to cook the ultimate steak, seasonal puddings, 15-minute suppers or perfect pasta for as little as £50 a session); half- and full-day workshops (covering everything from butchery and knife skills to bread and pastry for £60-150); and special events, which include Patisserie with head tutor Kelly Sealey, Indian Cookery with Monisha Bharadwaj or Italian with Alex Murray. We attended one of Alex’s Italian day courses, which involved a whopping five courses, a wine tasting session with brother Luke, and mini masterclasses in pasta making, butchery, preserving and breadmaking – great value for only £150, we reckon. BQ classes are small and the tutors are friendly and hands-on with recipes you’ll want to cook endlessly.
Dancing Trousers Cookery School – Gloucestershire
MasterChef contestant Alexis Thompson set up this cookery school from her home in Lechlade after completing a Cordon Bleu Diploma. The name of the school is key to Alexis’ philosophy – it’s all about giving her students the confidence to try something new, and having fun. There’s no shying away in the background here – all of the classes are fully hands-on and, at the end of the day-long course, everyone gets to sit down to enjoy the three-course fruits of their labour together. There’s also a guarantee of no washing up, thanks to kitchen assistant Vanda! There are courses designed for beginners, or those looking to extend their recipe repertoire, alongside baking, pudding and fish classes. Day courses cost around £149, and it’s between £69- 80 for the shorter courses. There is also a great Young Person’s Guide to the Spatula, designed for 14-17-year-olds, for £297.
Cookery School – Gloucestershire
If the whole field-to-fork thing gets your juices flowing then Daylesford’s organic ethos and location (it’s on a farm – you can hear cows mooing!) should be up your street. The school is housed in a beautifully restored Cotswold-stone barn, and sits next to Daylesford’s famous farm shop and café. Use veggies from the 25-acre market garden; milk, cream and yoghurt from the creamery next door; and tuck into fresh artisanal bread and pastries before class from the in-house bakery. Head tutor Steve Brown has worked in Michelin-starred kitchens across Europe, and has created a schedule of courses which are ingredient-led and determined by what’s available on the farm, so you get things like the venison butchery and preparation day, or a class on quick and seasonal suppers. There is also a new six- week evening ‘Chef School’ designed for confident home cooks who want to take their cooking to the next level. Expect to take away essential kitchen principles as well as new recipes. Courses start at £90 (half day/evening) up to £175 for a full day, or £300 for two. Lunch is included, and cottages are available if you want to stay.
The Deviled Egg Kitchen Academy
Hidden behind Whiteladies Road in a quiet residential area of Clifton, The Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy is cooking up a storm from its snazzy new basement kitchen. Run from the home of founder Barbora Steiss, who trained at the esteemed Leiths Cookery School in London, the school covers a wide range of cuisines, skills, abilities and availability – think everything from a two-hour class full of ideas for using up knobbly Riverford veg to an evening of ‘No Women or Salads Allowed’, where dishes such as lamb rogan josh take centre stage. There’s an all-day turkey masterclass ahead of Christmas too. Prices can be as little as £35 for a two-hour class, or up to £150 for a full-dayer. Children’s classes are also available, for as little as £55.
Food Of Course – Shepton Mallet
If you’re serious about this food malarkey, this school – set on the edge of the Somerset Levels – is ideal for taking that leap from amateur to professional. Run by Louise Hutton from her 16th-century home, the school specialises in residential courses (we’re talking four weeks at a time in some cases), and classes are limited to six people – so expect individual tuition on the essential skills needed as a chef (from knife skills to breadmaking). There’s no hiding behind your classmates here! (Think of it as a foodie bootcamp.) If you want to learn the very basics, try the one-week Elements of Cooking course (£845), or go all out with the four-week Foundation Course (£3,700, including accommodation), which Louise says will fully prepare you to work in ski chalets or aboard a yacht as a private chef.
Grange Cookery School
– near Frome
Set in 20 acres of farmland, alongside the 17th-century farmhouse home of owner Jane Averill, The Grange is a purpose-built cookery school aimed at those students prepared to invest some serious time and dollar to the craft. Bed down for Essential Cookery (£3,360), a four-week residential course, which Jane and her team have been running for the past 30 years. Breakfast is a buffet in the morning, while you and 11 other students will have to cook for your lunch and dinner. Fees for this course also include a Food Safety in Catering Level 2 qualification. If a month sounds like too much, though, try the five-day Food With Flair course (£807) for an education in time-saving tips, easy- to-prepare recipes and a whistle-stop culinary tour around the globe.
Hobbs House Cookery School – Chipping Sodbury
Located in the former home of those Fabulous Baker Brothers, this new Cotswold cookery school which opened up in the spring of this year specialises in baking and butchery and much more, thanks to carefully selected guest tutors such as Benjamin Vear of Winstones Ice Cream. Our ed Laura tried out the masterclass in butchery and barbecue, back in the summer, which was hosted by Henry and Weber master Dan Cooper. The day was packed with recipes, good food and endless knowledge from these two experts in their field. Here’s the full review. Day courses start at around £145 (for patisserie classes with Sasha Jenner and Carla Moulder) up to £245 (for a bread-making masterclasses with Tom himself).
Lucknam Park cookery School
Lucknam has got to be one of the squeakiest, cleanest and newest cookery schools in the South West, and has all the state-of-the-art gadgets alongside award- winning tutors. The space is divided into islands, which fit four cooks each, so no class will ever be larger than 10-12 and each of you will always get a chance to get your hands dirty. Head tutor Kesh Desai is one of the most chilled cookery teachers we know, and specialises in Indian food and Michelin-style cookery, but there’s a whole range of courses to choose from on the curriculum, covering a spectrum of cuisines and techniques. At Crumbs we’ve tried out the ‘Seasonal Vegetarian’ course (Kesh’s ‘crispy’ poached eggs with a butternut squash, maple syrup and cheese soup has since transformed our dinner party menus!), and ‘Health is Wealth’, which focussed on nutrition and healthy eating. On both, Kesh spoilt us with top tips and advice. Full-day courses cost £175pp, but Adult & Child and Kids Only! half-day classes cost £75pp.
Noya’s Kitchen – Bath
Noya Pawlyn is a natural teacher; eager to get stuck in, and so passionate about her subject that helping others learn how to cook Vietnamese food seems anything but work for her. As well as a handful of monthly supper clubs in her favourite local, The Bear Pad, Noya currently offers three classes to choose from, all based at her Bath home. They last three hours, either in the morning or evening, and cost £45 per person. Our Sophie chose an introduction into Vietnamese street food when she visited, which saw chicken curry, mango and king prawn salad, spring rolls and chargrilled lemongrass beef on the menu. Noya recommends places to shop for the specialist ingredients (Banthon Oriental Supermarket on the High Street, for starters), and gets you stuck in straight away with chopping, dicing and measuring spices. The key to Vietnamese cooking is preparation, after all. Be sure to bring Tupperware – this is food you’ll most certainly want to take away.
Padstow Seafood School
Think Padstow and you think Rick Stein, and this school on the quayside, with views over the Camel Estuary, is no exception. Using fresh fish, brought in daily, the school’s team of chefs offer a range of accessible half-, one-, two- and four-day courses, all based on Stein’s tastes and travels. Learn how to prepare lobster one day, fillet fish the next and master some of Rick’s signature dishes, including charcoal-grilled skewers of squid with cumin, coriander, lime juice and chilli. Mmm. There are demos as well as hands- on cooking and you get lunch too. Courses start from £95 for a half day, £198 for a full day and up to £1,690 for a four-day residential course, but there are also several seasonal demonstration evenings throughout the year (the next is on 6 December) which come in at £16, and for that you also get 10% off purchases from the attached Stein’s deli. Bargain!
Papadeli – Bristol
There’s a deli on the ground floor, a cafe on the first floor and on the top floor is where you’ll find this multitasking food hero’s catering kitchen and cookery school. Classes are taught by Simon MacDonnell (owner) who trained at Leiths and Louise Barnard of Baby Bites (see previous entry). Courses cost £75 for three hours of tuition, hands-on cooking, food and wine. We’re most looking forward to Alpine Suppers and Winter Warmers on 23 January and Spring in Tuscany on 13 March.
Simi’s Kitchen – Bath
If you want to meet a true foodie, glamorous gardener and all-round fascinating person, then Simi’s Kitchen is the place for you. Iranian Simi Rezia hosts unique masterclasses where she’ll delve into the culture, customs and cuisine of Iran, and particularly Azerbaijan, for up to four hours. Learn how to create polow rice with its deliciously crispy bottom, or perhaps the medicinal, warming osh broth, or maybe some of Simi’s famous torshi pickles. Classes can be tailored to suit coeliacs, vegetarians and vegans, and as many ingredients as possible will be locally sourced – probably from Simi’s allotment. Groups of four cost £60pp, groups of two to three cost £90pp and one-on-one costs £150.
Square Food Foundation
Founded and run by Barny Haughton – that pioneering powerhouse of organic, local food – this Community Interest Company invests every penny from its courses into cookery courses for disadvantaged and at-risk groups of adults and children in Bristol, such as ‘Back to the Kitchen’ drop-in sessions for over 55s. The new autumn/winter programme, designed and is taught by Barny himself, starts this month and includes game cookery, charcuterie, breadmaking, winter puddings and more, on evenings during the week and Saturday mornings. There is also a great series called Simple Suppers on Saturday mornings for children aged seven to 14, costing £20 per class or £55 for three, where they learn to cook real meals for the family rather than just pizza or cupcakes. There is a 10% discount available for students, under 21s, over 60s and those on income support; prices start at £65 for the three-hour courses, while Saturday workshops start at £100 and last for around five hours.
Sweet Cumin – Midsomer Norton
You might recognise Bini Ludlow from her stint on Food, Glorious Food earlier this year, but around these parts she is becoming best-known for her authentic Gujerati cookery school, which is held from her home. We tested out a vegetarian class over the summer, learning the key spices needed (their scents, textures and properties) and the recipes for three different dishes, watching, then mirroring Bini. The classes are relaxed, small, and really informative – but do expect to help with the washing up! It’ll be worth it though, with a delicious dinner to tuck into at the end of it, plus plenty of leftovers to take home for the family too. Classes are a max of four people and can be a few hours long, half a day or full-day, and completely bespoke to your requirements. We like the sound of the Indian Fish and Chips and Shellfish course next, though… Prices cost £145 for a full-day and £75 for a half-day.
Thyme at Southrop Manor
If you want a real taste of the Cotswolds, then look no further than Kate Moss’s hood, over in Southrop. Admittedly, Thyme dominates the tiny village with its medieval tithe barn, boutique hotel, traditional 17th-century coaching inn, award-winning restaurant, snazzy cookery school, and some of the prettiest cottages around, but that’s all the more reason to make a weekend of it, surely? The school itself places its focus on the complete story of food, with cooking, growing, gardening and even foraging courses. There’s a mix of demos, hands- on classes, tastings and author talks on the schedule. We popped along to a talk with Xanthe Clay last year, with lunch, a Q&A session, book signing and a tour of the kitchen gardens included, but you can learn about everything from butchery and game to world food, wine tasting and more with house chefs Daryll Taylor and MasterChef winner Marjorie Lang, alongside guest experts. Classes cater for up to 24, but for every 12 students there is a dedicated chef and teaching assistant. Prices start at £35 for a 75-minute class, but most day courses tend to be around the £150-200 mark.
Vale House Kitchen – Somerset
It only opened in September, but it’s been causing a stir amongst foodies ever since its launch was announced at the start of the year. Labelled a ‘country skills and cookery school’, Vale House really does cover the whole process of field/lake/sky- to-fork, with courses on everything from fishing, foraging and shooting to home brewing and butchery skills with some of the region’s top experts, including River Cottage’s Tim Maddams and preserve guru Vivien Lloyd. Classes are limited to eight to ten, there’s a brand-new, state-of-the-art kitchen, and ingredients are sourced from the Stream Farm in Bridgewater, the Vale House Kitchen garden or Community Farm In Chew. This is about learning how to find, catch, shoot, prepare, cook and present food. You’ll be trumping HFW in no time after a lesson here… Classes range from £120-£180.
Vegetarian Cookery School
Rachel Demuth’s been cooking veggie food professionally for the past three decades and, along with her team (Helen, Jo and Jan), has curated a range of courses at her Bath school that everyone will enjoy, proving that ticking off your five a day needn’t be a chore – there’s even the chance to study for a diploma. Some of the courses have a Mediterranean slant – there are even cooking holidays including, most recently, a trip to Italy – but you’ll also see courses on Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese, and workshops on Mexican, the Middle East and Chinese takeaways. Now that’s what we call diversity! In the run-up to C-Day there are also several Christmas classes, if you want to up your game this year from a boring old nut roast. Single-day courses range from £140-175, half-days cost £75-95 and evening workshops cost £45.
You can even learn with your favourite restaurant chefs…
Kilted Chef – Bath A new series of classes are starting at Kingsmead Square’s modern British restaurant which will cost £95 and will see the trainee chefs learning to cook a starter, main course and dessert. You then get the chance to eat with chef and guzzle half a bottle of wine too.
Meluha – Bristol
Chef Stephen J Gomes, of Park Street’s Meluha, can show you the real potential of Indian cuisine. For £150 Stephen will introduce you to spice, and show you how to recreate an authentic Indian three-course meal. Classes are available to groups of five or less for beginners and intermediate levels.