Stella West-Harling, founder and CEO of the Ashburton Cookery School has been awarded an MBE for services to hospitality in the Queen’s birthday honours list this month.
Stella founded the cookery school 20 years ago from her home in East Street where she ran vegetarian cookery courses for small groups. Word soon spread and the cookery school has grown to become one of the leading culinary academies in the UK with 36 staff working at the school which teaches up to 60 students a day across 5 training kitchens.
“I chose to be in Ashburton because I wanted to be in the middle of a community and I felt that if it went the way I wanted it would help support the community and that is what has happened. I love Ashburton and we are all proud of the town.”, she says.
Stella is an active contributor to the growth of the region and is chairman of the Regional Training Centre for Devon and Cornwall for the School Food Trust; Women 1st; the Growing Dartmoor Project; Dartmoor Food & Drink; amongst other community enterprises.
Each year the cookery school raises money for the local Bank Youth Project through charity dinners prepared by the Chefs Academy Students.
“We are all really proud at the cookery school that Stella has been recognised with this award”, says Stella’s son and Managing Director of the cookery school, Dominic O’Nions. “Not only did she launch the cookery school but she has worked really hard to help improve the Devon and Dartmoor region for its community over decades and it is great that her contribution has been recognised in this way.”
There is no sign of Stella slowing down however, with more projects for Dartmoor in the pipeline, her own Home Farm Cafe in Parke, Bovey Tracey which is gaining a huge following, and a new book ‘A Cook’s Book’ coming out in July.