Looking to improve your cookery skills? Our ten favourite culinary schools cover every technique, and are all spread across the UK.
"Isn't it frustrating," says London Cuisine's Francesco, "when celeb chefs on TV don't teach you the techniques behind their recipes?" To bridge the gap, London Cuisine specifically focuses on 'skills, education and techniques', and Mr full-of-top-tips Francesco, who runs the classes, is one of the most knowledgable chefs we know. Each course - ranging from 'The Book of Sauces' to 'Herbacious Gourmet' and 'Nouveau Indian' - takes you through one recipe at a time, explaining in great depth how to master certain skills (such as chopping an onion, how to sauté, preparing herbs and spices, understanding a won ton wrapper...) before passing the kitchen over to the students, who cook together.
Lovefood's Charlotte learnt how to make paneer samosas, Thai-style sushi and baked won tons (so easy when you know how) at the World Petit Gourmet Soiree class, a Friday night event which ends with a feast of all you cooked, shared with everyone in the class and washed down with a glass of wine. A relaxed, atmospheric evening, which leaves you with a plethora of Francesco tips and tricks to try at home. Here's a few of our favourite: use a mixture of lemon juice and salt to get rid of potent chilli residue on your hands; a grater will work better if you wet it with water first; always add your chopped onions to a pan before the oil; and plunge potted herbs from the supermarket into icy cold water for two hours when you get them home, to give them a longer life.
Happily situated on a 500 acre farm in the middle of the Hampshrie countryside, Newlyns cookery school sits on top of the award-winning Newlyns farm shop. They specialise in all things meaty – try the ‘poultry and pork perfection’ course, or ‘butcher it, cook it, carve it’ – but also cater for those interested in everything from baking to sugar craft and Italian cuisine.
The longest is a four week evening course, and there are also lessons designed specifically for children, keeping them busy during the summer holidays. The school hosts a variety of special events each season, and this year saw Marco Pierre White cook for Help the Heroes, and Nobu Japanese restaurant teaching the essence of Japanese cuisine.
As if taking afternoon tea at Betty’s Yorkshire café wasn’t pleasurable enough, you can now learn the secrets behind their fluffy scones in the cookery school next door. As they say themselves, “we’re passionate about sharing our love of food” and they offer pupils courses on everything from ‘patisserie perfection’ to ‘a taste of Yorkshire’ and ‘Indian banquet’.
There are five tutors in total – including a Leiths graduate – all with varied skills, and classes take place in a modern, purpose-built kitchen with large demonstration area and a high definition screen.
Food writer, broadcaster, and former chef to Andrew Lloyd Webber Angela Gray set up the cookery school at this working Welsh vineyard a couple of years ago. Its emphasis is on using local and seasonal ingredients wherever possible, and you’ll be cooking with ingredients from a huge network of local producers.
They offer both one and two day courses, covering topics such as ‘eat your way to optimal wellness’, a ‘Saturday morning kitchen’ for early starters, ‘winter Italian’, and the ever-popular ‘knife skills’. The school kitchen has six fully equipped workstations with De Dietrich hobs and multi- function ovens, plus a fabulous four oven Aga. There’s also a smart dining area complete with a cosy wood burner for chillier times, and a food photography gallery, profiling the work of Harry Williams.
Founded in 1975 by restaurateur and cookery writer Prue Leith, Leiths School of Food and Wine has an outstanding reputation and includes in its alumni catwalk model-turned baker Lorraine Pascale, TV presenter Gizzi Erskine, chef proprietor Matt Tebbutt, Scandinavian food expert Signe Johansen, and leading British food writer Diana Henry.
As well as the near-£20,000 Leiths Diploma in Food and Wine (the crème de la crème of food qualifications), the West London school also offers evening, week-long, one-day, and guest chef courses, bringing talent such as Anjum Anand and Yotam Ottolenghi into the school (good luck getting a place on his course).
As stylish a cookery school as you ever will see, and run by the world expert on bread, Richard Bertinet. Originally from Brittany in North West France, Richard trained as a baker from the age of 14 and his first baking book, DOUGH, was published in 2005 – the same year that he opened The Bertinet Kitchen. He was named BBC Food Champion of the Year in 2010 and, due to popular demand, still takes many of the classes himself.
The main reason to go is for one of their bread courses – if you’re lucky, Richard will teach you his easy ‘fold and slap’ method of making dough – but there are also lessons on how to make sauce, sushi, Italian food, and goodness knows what else. Fancy chef Mark Hix also leads some of the classes, although his are likely to be (almost) as popular as Richard’s.
This school sells itself as “field to fork experiences for people who really care about their food” – so expect to get your hands dirty. Whether it’s shucking oysters, mushroom foraging, game butchery, pork curing, or boning pheasants, you’re bound to learn something new.
For the supreme carnivores, try the ‘Free Range Pig in a Day’ course – visit nearby Blythburgh Free Range Pork farm, discover why happy pigs make great-tasting meat, enjoy a pork butchery demonstration, and create your own sausages, all before lunch. On other courses, there are opportunities to go behind-the-scenes of many a farm or artisan food producer, including Pinneys of Oxford (oysters and smoked fish) and the Wild Meat Company (game).
Darina Allen (mother-in-law of baking maestro Rachel Allen) and her husband Tim run Ballymaloe, which is the only cookery school in the world located in the middle of its own 100-acre organic farm. Be prepared to add butter and/or cream to every delicious recipe, and scoffing everything you cook is the law.
The 12-week certificate course is the longest on offer, for those people who want to take their food very seriously, or much shorter experiences on all manner of cuisines. If you’re lucky you’ll get a place on one of Rachel Allen’s three-day baking courses, but if not, try ‘homemade butter, yoghurt and cheese’, ‘irresistible breakfasts and brunch’, or maybe ‘how to cure a pig in a day and use every morsel’. There are vegetarian and gluten-free opportunities, too.
A totally vegetarian option, with a great reputation. The school itself is based at the headquarters of The Vegetarian Society at Parkdale, a Victorian mansion in Cheshire. It’s been going since 1982 and courses range from ‘flavours of the Caribbean’ to ‘vegan party food’, ‘vegetarian sushi’, and two-day workshops for those wishing to dive into vegetarianism for longer than a few hours.
There’s even a ‘CordonVert Professional Diploma’ on offer, which lasts five days and promises to give you everything you need to cook good veggie grub for the rest of your life. There are plenty of courses for young vegggies too – and the ‘vegan venture’ workshop is actually free for 16-25 year olds.
Raymond Blanc’s place, set in the magnificent grounds of his 13th century manor house hotel and restaurant. Former pupils include Kylie Minogue, Lenny Henry, and Laura Bailey, and it’s the only cookery school in the world to offer the change to learn in the kitchens of a two-Michelin starred restaurant.
During one, two or four-day courses, anyone from a complete novice to an accomplished enthusiast can learn the secrets of producing fine food. Tuition comes from expert cookery school chefs, and is led by Head Tutor Mark Peregrine, who brings over 30 years’ experience to the role. Cookery courses include everything from ‘food, body and mind’ to an intensive ‘learn to cook in one day’ and ‘food and wine tasting.
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