Thanks to a new wave of forward-thinking chefs and food pros, cookery courses are evolving into immersive experiences where eager foodies can pick up skills while also learning about the provenance of the ingredients they’re working with. Ready to skill up and get stuck in?
There are plenty of great seafood courses in the South West, but few give attendees the chance to catch as well as cook. Fore / Adventure (pictured top), based at Studland Bay in Dorset, enables adventurous foodies to get their hands dirty via its range of land- and sea-based foraging and feasting classes. The Kayak, Forage, Fish and Feast course offers the full hands-on experience.
The day starts with a kayaking expedition around the surrounding creeks, islands and chalky stacks to harvest ingredients and catch fresh fish and seafood for the afternoon cooking session. Back on the beach, the gang gather at The Hutquarters to cook the morning’s haul and then feast alfresco on dishes such as hake with wild salsa verde and sea veg.
For those who prefer to stay on dry land, the half-day Foraging & Wild Pizza Making course may be a better fit. A seasonal foraging walk across the shore and through local woods is followed by a wild pizza-making sesh where seasonal herbs and hedgerow finds are turned into unique toppings.
UK BBQ School, Devon
Barbecue has finally shed its reputation for burnt bangers and over-processed burgers thanks to a flourishing faction of fire cooks who are creating game-changing food on their grills – and then showing it off on social media.
Marcus Bawdon (who goes by the name Countrywoodsmoke on Instagram, where he has over 31k followers) has been at the forefront of the barbecue movement for over a decade. After publishing a string of fire-focused cookbooks, in 2021 Marcus launched UK BBQ School in the grounds of Fordmore Farm Shop near Cullompton in Devon.
At the outdoor cookery school, he hosts a range of barbecue classes which span from beginner’s basics to intermediate techniques. Guest chefs, including Sue Stoneman and Nila Ross-Patel, join Marcus to host themed sessions such as BBQ Cooking & Baking and Traditional Indian Cookery on the BBQ.
Shipton Mill, Gloucestershire
Pick up a loaf of bread at any bakery in the South West that’s worth its salt and there’s a good chance it will have been made with Shipton Mill flour. You might not have heard of the organic mill in Tetbury but you’ll have almost certainly devoured its goods in the form of chewy sourdough and crisp pastries.
Producing flour at their Victorian home since the 1980s, the Shipton millers know a thing or two about turning out a spot-on loaf, and share their baking expertise at classes held at the test bakery on their Frampton Mill site.
The baking tutelage doesn’t stop at producing golden-crusted sourdough: there are also courses on croissants and enriched breads, Italian baking and even wood-fired bread baking. In fact, the line-up of topics available is so comprehensive that, after you’ve worked your way through the whole list, you’ll pretty much have all the skills to set up your own bakery.
Empire Farm School, Somerset
Everyone’s entertained the idea of jacking in the nine-to-five, going off grid and setting up their own smallholding – especially after a testing day in the office or a painfully slow crawl home in traffic. The lucky few who do cross the threshold from daydream to reality seek the guidance of Sally and Adam Morgan at Empire Farm School.
From their organic farm on the edge of Blackmore Vale in Somerset, the duo have been connecting people with food since 2006. Their smallholding courses, such as Living on One Acre or Less, cover the basics of how to live sustainably off the land and include topics such as keeping animals and growing vegetables.
The farm also hosts hands-on butchery courses with master butcher David Coleman, ranging from how to butcher a whole hog to making sausages, and curing meat and fish.
More great cookery schools and courses in the South West …
For almost 30 years, aspiring chefs have sought the guidance and expertise of the chef tutors at Ashburton Cookery School in Devon. As well as a Chefs Academy, the cookery school also hosts a range of relaxed courses for homecooks.
Also in Devon is Glebe House (pictured above), one of the region’s newest (and most talked about) gourmet guest houses. The smallholding near Colyton runs a series of workshops throughout the year: pasta- and bread-making courses (among others to be announced) are on the agenda for 2022.
Pro-rugby player Rupert Cooper swapped rucks for recipes when he retired from the sport and took over as head tutor at Philleigh Way Cookery School in Cornwall. There’s a huge array of courses to get stuck into, with guest tutors including the likes of Adam Banks and Stephane Delourme.
Those looking to hone their bread-making skills will find a huge selection of courses at The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School in Bath. Renowned French baker Richard Bertinet hosts classes for all abilities, from Introduction to Bread Making to Nordic Baking to Pastry Masterclass.
And in Bristol, popular Clifton deli Papadeli has a line-up of cookery classes which range from ravioli masterclasses to deboning a chicken.
Check out our feature on next-gen bakeries here.