Cast your minds back to the summer of 1992. John Major was Prime Minister, Right Said Fred were in the charts, and Home Alone 2 was the box-office smash. Meanwhile, in the picturesque Georgian market town of Ashburton, on the edge of Dartmoor, the Ashburton Cookery School was born.
On the premises of what was The Ashburton Hotel, we began life under the name Ashburton Centre for Holistic Education and Training. Our founder, local food hero Stella West-Harling MBE (Devon Life Food & Drink Awards 2014), initially concentrated on the teaching of Organic Vegetarian cuisine, as well as a whole other range of courses focused on health and well-being.
The Foot and Mouth Outbreak of 2001 had massive repercussions on local businesses, many of whom sadly, did not recover. We were lucky enough to weather the storm, and did so by an ambitious (and maybe somewhat foolhardy) expansion of our kitchens, allowing us to take on more students. Thankfully the appetite for learning was still strong in these parts, and by 2004 our Chef Director Darrin Hosegrove joined the ranks of Ashburton Cookery School, helping to pave the way for all that would follow.
Darrin’s culinary pedigree, coupled with his infectious passion for good food, and charismatic, approachable style of teaching, has helped grow Ashburton Cookery School into the globally recognised institution that it is today.
Chef Director Darrin Hosegrove
By 2009 we had outgrown our existing kitchens and moved into our premier, purpose built facilities on Old Exeter Road, where we still call home today. Housing world-class training kitchens, the move really helped the school flourish, with teaching spaces, that reflected the quality of the teaching on offer.
In 2012 Ashburton Chefs Academy was launched, offering six months of intensive training for those students wishing to turn their passion, into their livelihood. The Patisserie Diploma arrived the following year, and two years later, we introduced a 4 week foundation course, all of which come with internationally recognised qualifications.
This is just as well, seeing as we now attract students from all over the world. At the beginning of this month, we welcomed a new batch of Diploma students, arriving from all over Europe, as well as South Africa, Pakistan and Singapore.
However, during this incredible expansion, we have never lost sight of the values and principles that we were founded on. Despite the international attraction that the we now enjoy at Ashburton, our focus is still very much local.
We believe, it is by keeping our mandate for using only the best produce from local sources where available, that has helped us to stay at the top of our game for so long.
Since we began, many other fine schools have popped up over the years, offering good quality teaching. However, we are certain that there is nowhere else in the country that has the geographical advantage that we can boast of.
Situated on the foothills of Dartmoor, could there be a better location, for the best quality meat? A short distance from the world famous Brixham Fish Market, for all the fruits of the sea, and the perfect place for the amazing local growers.
We now have 12 resident Chef Tutors, each offering their own unique set of skills, backgrounds, and approach to teaching. We have over 40 short courses on offer for everyone from ambitious home cooks, to those of you who may struggle to know the difference between a bread knife and a butter dish.
Our ambitions to help improve the culinary habits of as many people as possible, we believe is a very important mission for the health and wellbeing of us all. We may have long since grown from our origins of ‘Holistic Education and Training’, but by focusing on the very most important aspect, our diet, we feel we are staying true to those roots. Everything starts and ends with your diet.
On the 24th of August we celebrate 25 years since we first opened our doors to the public. And whilst we have plenty to be proud of, we must first take a moment to be humble and thankful.
No achievement we can boast of, no award in our cabinet, no recognition that we enjoy, could have possible without the support of all of you. From those who in the local community who supported us in our early years, to all of you who have come to Ashburton Cookery School during the last 25 years to learn new skills in the kitchen. You have all been part of this journey, and it goes without saying, that we wouldn’t be where we are today, without you.
Over the course of the next 25 days, we will begin to countdown to our official 25th anniversary. During this time we will be sharing with you some recipes from the archives, some pictures and comments from students who have been with us over the years, and a few fun facts about Ashburton Cookery School.
Here’s to the next 25 years. We hope you’ll be part of that journey too.