Since the COVID pandemic, many of us fell back in love with home cookery, seeking methods to improve cookery skills firstly on-line via YouTube lessons, and more recently in person across the UK’s cookery schools. But how do you choose a cookery school for you?

Cookery schools across the country have seen a steep rise in demand in recent months. There is a wide range of cookery courses available to suite all domestic needs. From amateur cooks looking for inspiration to aspiring chefs wanting to progress their careers, cookery schools cater to every level of skill. But, are there any guarantees of quality, and does it really matter? We share some insights into seeking out the right cookery school for you.

Anyone can in theory start a cookery school. There are no national restrictions or laws,  which means that someone could very easily give themselves a name, build a training programme and call it a ‘professional’ cookery course.

They can also ‘invent’ the qualification you’ll be awarded at the end of that course. During the pandemic many were offering ‘qualifications, ‘certificates’, diplomas’ in various cooking skills. When a cookery school is ‘self-accredited’ in this way, they effectively hold themselves to standards of teaching that are not externally recognised by any formal governing or awarding body in the industry.

A Mark Of Quality

Nationwide, thousands of organisations are providing their own ‘qualifications’. Many do it extremely well; they have excellent, long-established reputations and provide expert training which leads to their own self-accredited qualifications, and those qualifications are highly regarded in the industry.

Some even hold international acclaim. The renowned Leiths School of Food and Wine, offer their own Diploma in Food and Wine – a qualification that has launched the successful careers of thousands of its graduates, not just in the UK but around the world. Also Bertinet Kitchen cookery school in Bath, headed up by expert baker Richard Bertinet provides in-depth training for students of all levels as part of their recognised program.

These are more of an exception than the norm, though – and for those who are more serious about developing their cookery skills, self-accrediting courses can become even more problematic.

Turning Passion Into A Career

Without a qualification from a formally recognised awarding body, an aspiring chef can’t collect UCAS or similar points towards a university application, or eventually nto a career in catering or similar.

Neither can they apply for entry visas to work in other countries who operate points-based systems. And budding chefs seeking to go straight into the working world will find that self-accredited qualifications generally don’t hold much sway with the majority of industry employers.

So how do qualifications become formally recognised? The UK government maintains a Register of Regulated Qualifications, which outlines all the qualifications across every sector which it formally recognises. But for the hospitality industry, it’s a little more complicated. A cookery school might be listed on the government’s Register of Education Providers, for example, but that does not necessarily mean it’s subject to external inspections.

Of course, not everyone who takes a cookery course is looking to become a professional chef. Many people simply want to master their favourite dishes, expand their kitchen repertoire or brush up on everything from the very basics to the more advanced elements of cookery.

For this audience, accreditation is still an important consideration. It’s a mark of trust and quality which gives you complete assurance that the cookery school you’ve chosen is operating to the highest standards of training.

So what type of accreditation or qualification should aspiring cooks and chefs seek out when choosing a venue?

Accredited Cookery Schools

Firstly your preferred or chosen cookery school should ideally be independently assessed by the Independent Cookery Schools Association (ICSA). ICSA accreditation is held by a growing number of cookery schools across the country, from Ashburton Cookery School in the West Country, right up to Edinburgh School of Food and Wine, and up to 30 accredited cookery schools in between.

ICSA Accredited Cookery Schools have undergone rigorous assessments to ensure ‘Consistent delivery of excellence in cookery skills and training’ as well as other criteria known as their ‘Core Values’ such as adhering to strict standards of environmental sustainability, seasonality of ingredient and continued support for British farmers and produce. You can read more about ICSA and their accreditation process here. Select your preferred cookery school by specialism, seek out one of our ‘Centre’s of Excellence‘ for specialities in teaching such as bread, fish, vegan, vegetarian, meat etc or if you are seeking a professional qualification, look for one of our ‘Academy‘ schools which affiliate to course accrediting bodies, these include Ashburton in Devon Leiths in London, Vaughan’s in Wiltshire and Edinburgh New Town and The Grand Cookery School in York. Then contact them via our listings, and enquire which is the best course for your needs and preferred date. The reservation team will contact you to confirm yoru bookings. Every ICSA cookery school ensures your teaching standards will be of the utmost quality. It’s that easy!

ICSA Independent Cookery Schools Association Kite Mark Of Quality TeachingThat’s why ICSA cookery schools should be the first port-of-call for anyone looking to enrol on a cookery course, whether for pleasure or future career potential. It’s an assurance of not only exceptional quality and standards, but of a qualification that will hold real value for the chefs of tomorrow.

Discover an accredited cookery school who display their ‘Accredited Cookery School Certification Mark’ via the National Register Of Accredited Cookery Schools here