Student Story: Cat in the Kitchen

We love it when our past students drop us a line to tell us that they have gone on to realise their dreams, and so we were delighted to hear from Cat Dutton who studied with us all the way back in 2006 on a 5 day More Intermediate course. 

Cat is now Chef Patron of her own pop-up home restaurant, Kitchenorium in Leamington Spa which offers social dining experiences several times a month and has been a finalist in the Muddy Stilettos Awards for Best Restaurant in Warwickshire.

You can visit her website at

1. Can you describe the kind of cook you were before taking the course?

I was a fairly confident, mostly self-taught cook, but having developed a lot of my skills whilst being a vegetarian, I was not quite so confident in preparing meat and fish.

2. What were your ambitions? Why did you want to learn to learn to cook professionally?

My father and I attended the course together, and we were both looking at various possibilities for the future. He was considering something similar to what I do now at Kitchenorium, but sadly he passed away shortly after we attended Ashburton. I’m very grateful to have spent that time together doing something that inspired us both.

3. What made you choose Ashburton?

It was my father who selected Ashburton for it’s outstanding reputation, as well as the location, which was convenient to his home near Plymouth.

4. What did you think of the course content and structure?

It was all very well planned, and carefully structured so that we got a heck of a lot done in the time we had. I particularly remember learning how to prepare various shellfish – lobster, crab and oysters, the duck confit and the puff pastry which we made over the course of three days.

5. What did you think of the Kitchen?

The teaching kitchen was compact but well equipped with everything we needed for our lessons, and the dining room was the perfect setting for socialising with the other students while we sampled our culinary creations.

6. What did you think of the chef tutor team?

Darrin was an excellent tutor, he and his team worked together like a well-oiled machine. Everything ran like clockwork and they made it all seem effortless, which I know actually takes an awful lot of work.

7. What did you think of the course overall?

10 out of 10!

8. Did you feel more confident in your cookery after the course?

Oh definitely, most notably in the handling and preparation of meat and fish.

9. How have you used your cookery skills after you completed the course?

Over the last ten years, since my partner and I moved into our current home, we’ve been hosting regular dinner parties for local friends. As my confidence continued to grow, the menus gradually became more adventurous as I tried out all the dishes I’d previously found too daunting. Now I’m using all of the skills I’ve learned and all of my experience in my new business.

10. What are your plans for the future?

Looking to the future, I plan to continue growing and developing my business, Kitchenorium. In my first year I’ve already been a finalist in the Muddy Stilettos Awards for Best Restaurant in Warwickshire, set up my own networking event for local small businesses and I’m about to be a speaker at this year’s TEDx Leamington Spa.

11. Would you recommend the course to others?

Yes, very much. It’s more than ten years now since I attended the course and I often look back and recall my experience at Ashburton with fondness. It was a crucial step in my journey to where I am now – running my own catering business!

12. Do you have advice for others that are considering the course?

Go for it, you’ll have a fantastic time 🙂

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