The need for a regulatory body for British cookery schools goes back a few years before the birth of The Independent Cookery Schools Association. The idea began simply as a conversation between Scottish chef Nick Nairn and the legendary Raymond Blanc OBE nearly a decade ago. A couple of years later, Nick was interviewed by Delicious Magazine and met visionary owner of the publication, Seamus Geoghegan. Another casual conversation led Seamus to contact me to ask if I would be the driving force to get the Independent Cookery Schools Association off the ground. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Stella West Harling MBE. 
Joint Founder & President

Introduction to ICSA

As ICSA enters its fifth year, members are focusing this year on five core values in a five year plan in addition to our mission statement of Excellence in Cookery Skills and Training. These are that all ICSA schools aim to be sustainable, seasonal, regional, single use plastic – free and supporting British producers by 2020. The time to act is now and we are taking that action.

It is a real pleasure to see just how many schools have survived and prospered even in difficult times. As well as a body of assessment we are an association, a community. There is great strength in the support we offer each other , from staying abreast of new legislation, to insurance to new trends. We all recognise that there are a myriad of reasons why one school is chosen by a student above others in the group. Therefore we believe that we are a non-competitive group all looking out for each other and freely sharing best practice, ideas and information.

There are huge challenges facing us as Brexit slows down the numbers of overseas clients to a trickle and the UK market decides to ‘wait and see’ before spending any money on anything at all. However, ICSA as an association continues to grow in reputation. Our kite mark, the stamp of assessed cookery schools in the UK we are proud to say, can be seen on the home an increasing number of cookery schools’ websites. Customers who are looking to spend their money wisely can look to that kite mark as an assurance in the excellence of cookery skills and training and with confidence, take a cookery course which will stand then in good stead for the future.We have no idea what the near future brings, but what we can rely upon is the ICSA Mark of Excellence shining through to encourage people to book a course with a known organisation who ensures that the skills training that they are about to buy is the best it can be.

Over the next two years Nick and I travelled between London and Scotland to brainstorm, problem solve to get the ideas into a workable format. We then worked with academics at the University of Exeter to write functional criteria to assess and accredit schools. Then next step was to build a management board of highly-regarded heads of successful UK Cookery Schools. These experienced schools could decide how the self-regulating body could encompass best practice and encourage other independent cookery schools to join the establishments who had been invited to be founder members.

Since then we have been growing steadily, spreading the word, supporting members, connecting with other organisations with whom we share values of sustainability and provenance. As food educators we see our role as helping shape the culinary landscape of Britain by training excellent responsible chefs and informed food enthusiasts who will source their food, love their food, delight in sharing their food with their family and buy wisely for a healthy bodies and a healthy planet.

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Promoting responsible farming & animal welfare.