Squires Kitchen International School has been teaching the art of cake decorating and sugar craft since 1987 and is now the leading independent school of its kind in the UK. From the basics of beautiful baking to mastering the art of cake decorating, chocolate and sugar craft, Squires Kitchen was formed to share a passion and an extensive knowledge of sugar craft with other creative cake makers.
Classes are taught at The Grange, a stunning Georgian style building in Farnham, just behind the shop. The new cookery school opened in September 2010, with a fully equipped room complete with state-of-the-art appliances from Smeg. Students from all over the world learn from leading names in the industry who share their expert knowledge and experience, giving them the skills and confidence to take their interest to the next level.
Squires Kitchen International School works with a growing list of experts and professionals, including leading sugar crafters, master chocolatiers, celebrity chefs and professional bakers, meaning students can learn from the very best in the business. Their tutors are approachable and friendly and by maintaining small class numbers (12 maximum) this enables them to provide personable and intimate lessons focused on teaching techniques, answering questions and developing confidence.
Meet the chef: Mark Tilling
Where did it all begin?
I knew I wanted to be a pastry chef from a really young age, around ten. I had always cooked with my mother and grandmother. We would cook and bake together and I loved working with pastry from being very little. As a teen I did food tech at school and did my work experience at a local hotel The Botley Grange Hotel, who gave me a Saturday job to help with weddings because I had done so well. I went to college and Southampton University to study catering and business, whilst doing my level 3 in pastry. I got a job at the Lainsborough Hotel in London as a pastry chef, where I worked for two and a half years before returning to Winchester to chef at Hotel du Vin, then at Lainston House, where I began teaching and really got the teaching bug for the first time. I’ve been at Squire’s Kitchen for 7 years.
I love the variety of flavours you can use. I think it has an artistry about it which I am drawn to, in fact it brings together my two passions – food and art. Whether it’s making a chocolate wedding cake or crafting tiny sugar flowers it has a finery and creativity and flexibility that means the scope of what you can create is endless.
I love teaching because I am passionate about passing on this knowledge and skills to people. It’s a buzz when people arrive thinking they can’t do something and then you break it all down for them and in a couple of days they are up and running. They can’t believe what they are capable of and to enable them and see their delight is a great feeling.
What are the highlights?
Entering the World Chocolate Masters as the UK representative in 2006 and 2010 was a biggie. To represent my country in a world event was an enormous honour. Obviously winning BBC2’s Bake Off: Crème de la Crème was another big achievement for me. I also made my own wedding cake!
What does the future hold?
To carry on doing what I love! Carry on teaching about chocolate and pastry – I want to bring the industry back up there and share my specialist knowledge and expertise. The great thing is that there are always new innovations so it never stands still. New varieties of chocolate keep coming out, new blends that you can work with in different ways – there are some out now for example that use sheep and buffalo milks.
In some ways sugar is seen as the enemy these days because of rising obesity levels and because processed foods are full of it. But sugar isn’t the enemy – if we to learn to use it, value it, have it as a luxury treat item in beautiful hand crafted dishes is in some way restoring it to its former glory and helps us to reclaim the magic and enjoyment that is there.