The existence of the Cookery School at Little Portland Street is a happy accident. Its founder and principal, Rosalind Rathouse never intended to set up a school – it was born of necessity, when a young would-be chef turned to her for help. In effect, its first student came before its first tutor.
Since then, more than 40,000 people have passed through Rosalind’s doors, drawn by the school’s accessible approach to teaching, peerless sustainability credentials (a three-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurants Association and then some), and zero-tolerance for pretentious gastro-jargon. Many of its students come in groups from London’s corporate sphere – Rosalind has a reputation for transforming cooking classes into memorable lessons in leadership.
Rosalind has now been teaching cooking for more than 50 years – so there can be few tutors out there who know their (organic, locally grown) onions better than she…
How did you end up running a cookery school?
I was a school teacher in South Africa in the 1960s, had lots of experience in catering and ran a pie factory. When a boy on his year off wanted to learn to cook but we could not find a place in any of the handful of cookery schools that existed then, I said that I would teach him if I had time. With that thought, the Cookery School at Little Portland Street began.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Being involved in the financials.
…and the best?
Dreaming up new classes, trying out new recipes and planning interesting leadership-training programmes.
Do you have a favourite course or topic that you teach?
I absolutely love chocolate making.
What do you think is the trickiest dish/technique that you teach in your classes?
No dishes or techniques are ever really tricky if they are properly taught and the mystique is removed.
How would you describe the atmosphere in the school kitchen?
Friendly and energetic.
What do you think makes the Cookery School at Little Portland
Street stand out?
Our passionate and knowledgeable teaching, focus on sustainability and excellent home cooking.
Do you think some people are just bad cooks? Or can everyone be saved?
No question – anyone can be saved.
Be honest now: are there any ingredients that you use in your classes that you don’t actually like?
Goat’s cheese is my least favourite ingredient, but much loved by others at the school.
How often do you add new classes, and how do you decide what to teach?
We introduce new classes every couple of months. They might cover new regional cuisines or an interesting health idea connected with food – but only if it’s based on good, scientific research. We do not follow fads.
What are your desert-island dishes?
Cream and cream and cream.
Provençal tomato tart.
Real sponge cake filled with passionfruit curd with a passionfruit topping, served with a huge dollop of fresh cream.