|For me a course has to be hands on.|
I love going on cookery courses. I get excited about each and every one, and yes you might ask why a qualified chef might say this, but in my experience you can always learn more. I also really enjoy the social aspect of getting out of the house and meeting really interesting people and feeling that I have something new to try out on my family when I get home.
Working for BBC The Kitchen Garden show has meant that I’ve had the opportunity over the past few years to go to many cookery schools and have done many courses some of them good, some of them truly awful and several that were outstanding.
So as I’ve set up the Juniper and Rose Cookery School in Northampton I've been thinking about what makes a really good cookery course?
The starting point for me has to be price. If it is too expense I just can’t afford it. It’s that simple.
Then there is the question of numbers. All too often cookery courses are over oversubscribed. I understand why, More people is more profit, but too many and it at the expense of the other students. I remember one particular course in London that had 22 people there. It was a nightmare. I couldn’t see the demonstration and when I needed clarification on an instruction I had to wait twenty minutes before the tutor got to me.
I like to really learn stuff. One particular course I recall being hugely frustrated that all the good bits I wanted to do and needed to learn were simply demonstrated. I can look at a video on you tube if I want to simply watch someone doing it. When I want to do a cookery course I want to be up to my elbows in whatever I am cooking, so I get to touch, feel, measure and learn.
I don’t want to sound like I am being fussy about things, but when I am on a cookery course I want to put things in a wider context. Whilst I am learning with my hands I like to learn the way in which my food choices affects the world. I like to know, for example, which fish as sustainable when I am doing a fish course, or where I can buy flour milled from the nearest flour mill. I loved that when I attended a course run by Dan Lepard at that were given artisan flour to take home and try. It was generous and thoughtful.
For the sake of timing or cost of ingredients, or even perhaps as an attempt at getting more in I’ve been on courses where there is a communal theme. Making different shapes with Danish pastry was one such course. I got to make twenty of one particular shape and we all shared out the other five shapes. Now I am truly really great at one Danish pastry shape only.
Cleanliness is rally important. I know you are probably wide eyed that I have even mentioned this, however I have been to one cookery school where things were not quite as they should be. Common areas must be clean for me.
Finally I like to be inspired to go home and start cooking. I want a course to influence the way I do things and even to motivate me. It’s a tall order I know, but when I’ve spent a whole day and my hard earned money I want it to have an effect. If you’ve been on a bread-making course and you don’t go home and make you own bread then what, if I may ask, was the point of that?
Every cookery school I've been to has had a different feel to it. Some are intimate, some are friendly, others are intense. Hopefully I've taken the very best aspects from all of them and added my own style.
I’d love to know what else you think makes a really good course… .