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The Woodspeen's the cream of cookery schools after refurb

Renovation means more masterclasses with the top guys, says Michelin star chef

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper


01635 886632

The Woodspeen's the cream of cookery schools after refurb

A MICHELIN-starred restaurant in West Berkshire is now able to offer would-be chefs a greater experience after a major refurbishment of its cookery school.

The renovation of the school at The Woodspeen, which retained its Michelin star this year, has seen the building kitted out with top-of-the-range equipment and worktops and redesigned to allow students more space to cook.

Chef patron John Campbell explained: “When it first opened it was a nice space – great, utilitarian – but it wasn’t quite what we wanted – all the effort went into the restaurant.

“When we could afford to refurbish the school, we did.

“Essentially, what we have done is opened up the west side, which is the side that goes up to the vegetable plot, and extended the end to give us a little bit more space for operation.

“The most important change is that a lot more masterclasses can now happen in the kitchen because we have got an island within it, where everyone can gather round.

“So it is a little more dynamic. The chefs table is amazing now.

“It’s more private dining or fine dining, as opposed to just a table where people finish their cookery session.”

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know your Pavlovas from your parfaits either, as the school also welcomes complete beginners.

Mr Campbell went on: “One of the biggest questions I get asked is ‘I’ve never cooked before, I can’t cook. Can I come to the course?’

“A hundred per cent I can teach anybody how to cook. Anyone.

“It’s not whether they could cook before or whether they have cooked before, but whether they have got a desire to cook.

“I can teach anybody, so it doesn’t matter what skills people bring to the table, even if it’s nothing, they will have a great day.

“That is what is important about our team.

“There are three or four classes a week at least, but they are all very different.

“For example, we just finished the game course last week, seasonal dinner parties are obviously seasonal, we had steak night last night and fish and chip night last Friday, so there’s always something going on.

“I take at least 60 per cent of the courses. Pete [Eaton] takes probably 20 per cent and Olly [Rouse] takes 20 per cent.

“Our backgrounds are all up to two Michelin star level, both of them worked with me at The Vineyard, all three of us went to Cowarth Park and we’re all here.

“So it is the top guys. It is not just somebody we think can teach and impart some knowledge. You’ve got the cream.

“I think that is an important as a selling opportunity for the school – you get the top guys.

“What we all recognise is that we’ve got to keep it fun and motivational.

“We’ve got to inspire motivation, inspire them as cooks and once we do that then they pick things up very quickly.

“We can teach 10 individuals all at different levels to align at the end of the day and that’s what we as a three are great at.

“No other school – not just nationally, but I can’t see any other school in Europe – would offer the three principal cooks teaching people how to cook. It doesn’t happen.”

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