A Cookery School…That Sounds Fun! Pt 1

Supermarket Meal Deals! £10 for 3 courses….including wine…does anyone else find this deeply depressing?  Don’t get me wrong, many of us are time poor and we have to eat, but I look at the number of “ready meals” in the chiller and think how many people that evening will be following the same formula, watching reality chewing gum on the telly and find it a little sad.  The meal is perfectly adequate, the ingredients are well travelled (that’s not a good thing), salt and sugar levels have to be mapped on a pie chart, nothing to do with what tastes best….but at least we don’t have to think about what we and most of our street is eating for tea!

Who am I to harp on about this…a slightly frustrated entrepreneur, obsessed by food, loves cooking and thrives on the social elements of eating and cooking together.  My fortune was going to be made by making big pots of stew, cooked properly over plenty of time, with proper ingredients and plenty of care…then portioning it and selling it to discerning customers…it started in the farmers markets, branched into delis and then fell onto a slide that took us to the big retailers….we did well, sales went from 40 pots a week to thousands…we were on our way…then our competitor, a beautifully branded bowl of slop, brand owned by the biggest drinks company in the world…well, they decided that they wanted the shelf space, chucked a huge amount of money at the retailers and our listings disappeared….am I bitter, a little really…however it was quite a ride and I learnt a lot!

As well as food, I love where we live…we moved to Didsbury in the 90’s, basically drawn to the restaurants and pubs, then as kids arrived we found that we were in a fantastic place for our children to grow up, good schools and loads of friends on their doorstep.   We are spoilt with our local shops, I think for years, I took them for granted, but then I realised that Axons, Evans, The Cheese Hamlet, Fresh Save…that’s the order I walk past them from my house… are so important to the why Didsbury is such a great place to live…and I started to use them…no car, you have a conversation with the staff and owners, they are interested in you and the feelings mutual!

How does this lead to a cookery school?  It’s natural… I want people to share my love for food and frankly this is a really fun way to do it.   Food is social and there are two distinct relationships with food and sociability…those to whom food is a social event, an excuse to get together, happy to share a simple dinner or enjoy hours preparing a feast.  Others are slightly nervous about it, it’s a chore, they feel it’s a risk to have people round in case it’s not any good, maybe they are a bit competitive so they feel that if they are having guests, they have to make the biggest and the best….I want people to have the first relationship – if you have your friends and family with you, a bowl of soup is as enjoyable as a soufflé and a shepherd’s pie is always a treat to share.

In all business, especially start ups, you need a little bit of luck, and about 12 months ago, I had a big piece of luck….I was doing some work at the Waterside Hotel & Leisure Club and while talking to the owners, they gave me a tour and shared their vision for the Hotel – back in private ownership, they had secured investment to renovate and rejuvenate the hotel, all rooms being modernised, the gym equipment state of the art and plans for a Spa, remodelled bar and restaurant….it’s a big site and mid tour I was instantly drawn to a space, under-used and dysfunctional…there was no firm plans for this area in the development and my idea started to grow…I put together a proposal to turn this into a Cookery School…the owners instantly got it, and the planning began….Food Sorcery was born, we had a venue, it was better than other cookery schools in the South Manchester area – it has windows (a rare treat for a cook school), a view of the river and green fields…entrepreneurial owners, access to hotel rooms, parking, a gym and  a pool…lucky!

Part 1 of a series – setting up a cookery school