Giving the gift of learning


Gifts can be all sorts of things. Lets face it, they can be mediocre, they can be laughable, they can be things you hope never to see again. Or they can be joyous, surprising, laugh out loud fabulous and memorable for years to come. And for me, giving someone the gift of a new skill, or upgrading a skill they already have, is a great gift, creates great memories, and in my area of interest, likely to lead to some great food as well!

There are, of course, some hugely well known schools, with quite large enrolment fees attached, so I’ve tried to feature some of those that are slightly more wallet friendly. Should you have won the lottery, then just ring for Raymond now! Otherwise, here’s my choices:

* Top of my list (in case Santa is reading) would be a course at The School of Artisan Food. Actually, what I’d love to do is do their full on diploma in artisan food producing, but given the need to pay the mortgage I’d settle for artisan ice-cream making or even cider making. Buy gift vouchers if you can’t decide, or book a course if you know what they’d love. Beautiful surroundings, and an incredible farm shop on site will make it a day to remember.

* Activity Superstore have a fairly wide range of cookery classes and experiences on offer, everything from kids classes to Japanese food, cupcakes to knife skills. You can watch and learn with chefs like Jean-Christophe Novelli, or just enthusiastic cooks looking to pass on knowledge. And if you’ve got it wrong, then they can always switch to anything else on offer, like bungee jumping. If they must!

* Dr T and MGG did a foraging walk with the team from Food Safari whilst we were at Harvest at Jimmy’s earlier in the Autumn, and loved it, and I’d certainly be keen to join one of their courses. There is more unusual stuff here, like Wild Meat in a Day or Free Range Pig in a Day, or you can go a little simpler and just make some wonderful bread. Another huge benefit, the courses are mainly in the Suffolk countryside, so stunning surroundings as well.

* For something a little different, how about a day with Ivan Day, food historian and food lover. Learn about things like period sugarwork and confectionery, or late Medieval English cookery, even jelly and moulded food. Courses are two days long over weekends, and cost £290, excluding accommodation. Based in the Lake District, there’s plenty of choice of places to stay at every budget, and quite sure a day on these courses would certainly give some new insights into the food we eat today.

* Divertimenti is one of those shops that most cooks could lose a lot of time, not to mention money in, and their cookery school offers the same kind of diversity as well. As with most, you can book a course or buy vouchers, and it may be difficult to make a decision on which one. Great, intriguing names as well, like Tempting the Dragon or Fast and Hot, Slow and Low. There are also great technical courses, and fun courses, and just great demos to turn up to.


Give them something to look forward to in the New Year, and something to look back on for months to come. Just remember to encourage them to practice their new found skill on a regular basis, and the course almost pays for itself!

Photo by Goldhahn & Sampson.