In the age of Instagram, the craft of cooking fine food is inescapable. From a piece of healthy competition with your peers, to full blown performance to stun at the dinner party, there has perhaps never been so much pressure to be a good cook. An evidence of this, is the overwhelming range of culinary schooling options available, to help elevate everything from your bread baking to your fake flower decorating. Whether being experimental is your motivation or simply being able to delve into traditions of the table is your hope, our top picks of the best cookery schools across the UK will help you parade around you kitchen in cooking pride.
Whether donning an apron for a day or getting suitably stuck in for a week of Michelin star exploration, the appetite for cookery schools has increased vividly over recent years. Possibly partly due to an increase in consciousness around our relationship to food, shown extensively just by the vegan movement increasing by 360% in 10 years, people want to explore food more than ever. From meat-free Mondays, gluten free weekends and international cuisine Fridays, our dietary calendar is becoming exotic and independent with our own thoughts. From this, the rise of the cooking school has in many ways proliferated to become something for all of us. From teenagers who are opting to take chef training courses over university, to work colleges who would rather learn about a meal than simply eat one, the cookery school boom follows the trend in seeking more experiential ways to spend our money and leisure time. With all the camaraderie of fine culinary classes, here are the Beyond Bespoke top cookery schools to visit.
The Woodspeen School, Berkshire
A new arrival upon the cookery school scene, the Michelin-starred John Campbell repurposed an old farm shack with a suitably foodie history (formally a pub and butchers) to birth a cutting-edge cookery school in 2014. Specialising in stocks and sauces to butchery and game, Woodspeen school offers in at the deep end deboning of fresh, local meat, or offers a more tranquil try at pastries. Whether getting fully immersed or just involved by watching cookery demonstrations, there will also be a place to book at the chef’s table. Ideal for a group of friends, class notes are beamed onto screens above stations and later sent to your email, meaning at Woodspeen School there is never chance to miss out on show secrets.
Manna From Devon, Dartmouth
Following the avenues of more specific cookery schools, David and Holly Jones offer a Dartmouth-based brace of fiery heat, dedicating their culinary choices to show what can be cooked in wood-fire ovens. With world cuisine ranging from southern Indian and Asian street food, this technique is shown with inflamed passion, even to meet fish and bread based courses.
River Cottage, East Devon
Fine in name and form, the River Cottage cooking school spearheaded by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall divides away from a cooking-by-numbers process and organically transmits a ‘Farm, Forage, Cook and Eat’ ethos. An inspirational tone to backdrop their dishes, a range of courses outline how to eat well for yourself and for the planet, with the ultimate 4-day rural retreat course covering meat, fish, veg baking and ‘all things delicious.’ One and two-day courses are also available, with specific teachings of how to forage for wild food and how to apply nose-to-tail cooking. For the perfect melting pot of ethos and experience, a trip to the River Cottage Cookery school is a must.
Swinton Park Cookery School, North Yorkshire
In a converted Georgian stable wing adjacent to Swinton Park hotel, a relaxed and neat country house transforms into an excellent cookery school, being hugely accessible and welcoming in its approach and accent. A hands-on teaching is sided by ‘demonstration dining experiences’ which give guests the chance to watch their dinner being cooked while enjoying a glass of wine. Running half and full day courses, the school gets specific with classes on aga cooking and seafood, followed by wider courses of seasonal and regional cooking.
Seasoned Cookery School, Derbyshire
Offering 35 different courses, taught by 25 specialist chefs, Seasoned Cookery School caters for the culinary curious. Whether wanting to learn about smoking food or creating chocolates, to enrol in this school for a half or full day means to flourish as an expert in your newfound cooking field. No more than twelve to a class, no generalists emerge here. With the aim of achieving confidence within cooking, inspiration is lightly fluttered upon students, with cookery team building days also being available. The bakery courses a treat, with over ten to choose from many are taught by BBC Great British Bake-off finalists. In stunning surrounding, Seasoned is a place of discovery and true food education.
Demuths Cookery School, Bath
Pledging to educate people upon the joys and possibilities of vegetables, school founder Rachel Demuth began building a following in the South West for her pioneering vegetarian restaurant. This beginning concept has now very much grown, and over the past 30 years the school has stuck to Rachel’s beginning mission statement, now even offering a ‘Demuths Diploma,’ a two-week intensive course following vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Perhaps nowhere else does one establishment represent the eating habits of today so well, with courses raw, vegan and gluten free all on the agenda. With additional teachings upon how different cultures approach vegetarian cookery, in the shadow of Bath Abbey this place of progression is wild with food consciousness.
Eckington Manor Cookery School, Worcestershire
An essential example of what the modern-day cookery school has become, Eckington Manor covers a wide variety from British to global cuisine, with bread baking matched against desserts. With smart, well thought-out work stations half day or two-day courses proceed with involvement from all abilities. Luxurious accommodation in the school’s courtyard settles Eckington Manor’s establishment as a go to home of experience.
To find out more about best British cookery schools, explore the national cookery school guide here.