The popularity of television shows like the Great British Bake Off and Master Chef have no sign of running out of steam, having created media stars such as Nadiya Hussain and inspired thousands of amateur cooks. This national obsession with food has also seen the burgeoning of cookery courses – some run by further education colleges and some by privately-owned colleges.
Rosalind Rathouse runs one of the latter – Cookery School at Little Portland Street. She started it back in 2003 following a career as a teacher, professional cook and owner of her own cookery school in South Africa. At the time she embarked on her enterprise there were only four private cookery schools in London, so she entered the market at the right time, finding premises in London’s Little Portland Street. Now the school has a reputation for teaching excellence and an emphasis on sustainability. Rosalind uses organic products where possible and eco-friendly habits among her staff are well established. “We are aware of food and water scarcity for so many in the world and the necessity of sustainability if we are to maintain decent world food stocks for future generations. On the other hand there is an extreme growing interest, fanned by the media, of super indulgent and all too often wasteful food,” she says. “I wish that food could play a more important social role in pulling families together with communal eating and cooking.”
This approach has won her the accolade of runner up for Most Sustainable Cookery School 2014 as well as ‘The Best City Cookery School 2013’. Pupils are a mixture of school leavers, recent graduates, older people wanting a change of career, mothers with grown-up children who want to learn something new, professionals and working chefs who want to hone their skills through professional training. The school has two kitchens and employs nine full-time staff plus a host of part-time teachers and ‘back of house’ helpers.
Over the years Rosalind has put together a raft of course and classes that students have requested and these are popular with all who frequent Cookery School. With the huge interest in food, the six week intensive ‘fast track’ course which leads to the The Cook’s Certificate in Food & Wine has taken off in a way that they could not have envisaged. OCN London was invited to accredit the course to give it the kudos that it deserves.
The course takes place twice a year, in spring and autumn. Through the sustainable, principle-led teaching approach, students gain the skills required to become confident and knowledgeable general cooks. “We aim to give them the skills and confidence to be able to cater for large groups at home, or follow a career in food, whether this is small-scale catering in a chalet or yacht, or working in professional kitchens” says Rosalind. “Our food is based on classic, simple cooking. We focus on the importance of using fantastic ingredients and understanding basic principles. An experience at Cookery School is learning that lasts. You cannot unlearn how to chop an onion or crush a clove of garlic.”
Why has Rosalind decided to offer her students a cook’s certificate and not a chef’s certificate?
“Cookery School was founded on teaching people how to cook good food with confidence,” she says. “We believe that to be a good cook, you need to master and understand and master as many of the fundamentals of cooking as possible before entering a professional workplace and this is what our Cook’s Certificate aims to achieve.”
The qualification that students receive at the end of the course is the OCN London Cookery School Certificate in Food & Wine Level 3 from OCN London. Assessments take place throughout the duration of the course so that students can witness their growing competency and Cookery School can ensure that what has been taught has been assimilated and is being appropriately used. In general, the morning session will be quite long with a late lunch, during which homework is set and principles learnt that day are discussed, before a shorter afternoon session and completion of the short, daily OCN London assessments.
What difference does it make having an accredited qualification? As the course is set against a standard that OCN upholds, those taking it know that the accreditation is a worthwhile, well planned, realistic and a scrupulously verified course.
‘The Cook’s Certificate in Food and Wine’ courses are intensive, running from 8.45am to 4.30pm daily with extended classes on certain days. Each morning students take it in turns to make breakfast for the whole class and then tackle eight to 10 dishes, learning everything from basic tasks like boning chickens to fancier things like making puff pastry, croissants and soufflés.
Rosalind feels strongly that proper teaching can enthuse even the most unconfident cook by demystifying cookery techniques. “Instead of learning theory separately we integrate it into practical work,” she explains. “Our aim is to take someone from knowing virtually nothing to becoming an accomplished cook in six weeks. One of our ex pupils, who has started her own café in Seattle has told us that for her the course was priceless.”
Contact: Rosalind Rathouse, Website: www.cookeryschool.co.uk.