What it’s like
This place will quickly ease its way into your heart. A former pub in the peaceful village of Abinger Hammer in leafy Surrey, the cookery school opened its doors in March 2014. It’s a bit out of the way but if you’re coming into nearby Gomshall station and don’t feel like making the short stroll, someone from the school will come and pick you up. There’s onsite parking and four comfy B&B rooms attached if you live too far away to get there and back in a day. I chose to stay the night and can report that the fry-up in the morning is excellent.
After breakfast, the school’s teacher, Vinny Clist, welcomed me into the kitchen with a huge smile. Donning my apron as I looked out over the serenity of the Surrey Hills, I soon felt at home. There were only two of us on the course that day but there’s room in the kitchen for up to 10 people to have their own workstation – important if you’re going to get the most out of a course.
What I learned
The day was full-on – we got through an array of dishes, as well as having time to sit down and eat what we’d made for lunch and supper. The Dude Food course is all about what’s ‘cool’ to eat right now and the list of dishes didn’t disappoint, reading like every East London hipster pop-up rolled into one: scotch eggs, cow pie with marrowbone, steamed yum buns with pulled pork, kimchi slaw…
Although we covered a lot of ground, sometimes with several dishes on the go at once, it didn’t feel overly hectic. Ingredients were ready-weighed (and locally sourced – Bertie the pig from down the road became our lunch) and staff were on hand to tidy up after us. Vinny expertly guided us through everything, demonstrating techniques before we had a go ourselves. The school believes in hands-on training and, although the day was recipe-led in terms of structure, we were encouraged to trust our palates and adjust flavours as we went along, tailoring the food to how we liked it. Recipe cards and leftovers were available to take home.
The Dude Food one-day course is great value for money. We packed in a lot of cooking (and eating) and picked up tips and key techniques along the way. It’s an approachable course, but challenging enough: great for beginners and competent cooks who want to replicate trendy street food in their own kitchen. The great thing is, you don’t have to be a dude to take part – everyone will feel welcome.