Food and Travel Review

Food and Travel Review

August/September 2015

Set on the edge of Dartmoor, two-time Food and Travel Cookery School of the Year winner Ashburton has long been on our radar. It may be surrounded by rolling countryside, but this place is no provincial backwater. The quality of the teaching complements the school’s spacious footprint – think grand-scale public school over cramped inner-city comp.

I’m here for the Italian Masterclass under the tutelage of Phil Oram, once chef at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel and the RAC Club, before becoming chef lecturer at Exeter College. Phil’s been here since 2010 and designed most of the syllabus. About 50 different courses are available, from half-day knife basics to a weekend dinner parties course and a four-week certificate of professional cookery. For my day learning Italian food, I’m set to make pizza, focaccia, tagliatelle, tiramisu, pesto and, of course, a classic tomato ragu – none of which I have made before.

After chatting over coffee, our five-strong group (four cookery- school virgins) is put straight to making pasta. The machine used for rolling out has always made me ill at ease. I’ve owned one for many years but never used it. I shouldn’t have been so worried; the secret’s in the dough. After ten minutes’ kneading and resting in the fridge, it’s as malleable as Play-Doh and slides through the rollers easily. I vow to make it far more regularly from now on.

One thing I will be making again very soon, is pesto. As a huge fan and regular eater of the stuff, I hadn’t realised how darn easy it is to make. Throwing toasted pine nuts, basil and garlic in a blender with no great concern for quantities is exactly my style of cooking. The flavour bears no resemblance to what I’ve become used to out of jars – it is in a completely different league.

It’s at this point that I become gratefully aware of Phil’s sous chef, Nigel, who dutifully clears and washes up as I go. He’s also there to drop in hints, as well as to boost my confidence levels. For a modest cook, belief in what you do is key. Nigel creates a real positive atmosphere in the room. He stresses that if you start with good ingredients, the right equipment and a clear work space, it’s actually very hard to go wrong.

Now for the stuff my Italian dreams are made of: tiramisu. We make the custard, let it cool, soak sponge fingers in fresh espresso, refrigerate for as long as we can wait and sit down around one of the tables to sample our wares.

For a first-time cookery school experience, it has been fantastic. I have learned and had fun, and leave with a passion and verve for cooking that I didn’t realise I had. A professional school with a personal touch, it’s great for novices and experts alike. TB. £165.

Our Specialities

What you can learn at our cookery school

  • Butchery
  • Canapés & Dinner Parties
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Global Cuisines
  • Pastry, Cakes and Puddings


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