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Monday, 01 September 2014

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SISTERS EXPAND COOKERY SCHOOL

THE TV schedules are packed with cookery programmes and celebrities are falling over themselves to join the resurgence into the nation’s kitchens.

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Margaret Brough and Joan Gate whose Food & Company is a cookery school in the Mirehouse country house

Now two sisters who have turned their passion for home cooking into a successful business, are expanding their cookery school to appeal to even the most terrified amateur chefs.

“Whether it is family meals or entertaining friends for drinks parties, simple suppers or hassle-free dinner parties” says Joan Gate, “Through our events we want to inspire confidence in cooking.”

Joan and her sister Margaret Brough followed strangely similar career paths prior to setting up their catering business. Both studied hospitality-related courses at Carlisle College then worked for Cumbria County Council’s school meals service, where they also catered for high-profile county events.

Later they both worked at Higham Hall, an adult educational facility near Bassenthwaite Lake then, after raising their families, began their first joint enterprise – JM Caterers – in 1991.

One of the sisters’ regular clients was the Spedding family who live at Mirehouse, an historic house with beautiful gardens, on the shores of Bassenthwaite. Some of its outbuildings were also restored, one of which is the Garden Hall.

When Margaret and Joan heard it was available, they realised it could help them fulfil a dream of sharing their cookery skills with others and so Food & Company was created.

Margaret said: “The first year we started our cookery classes, we were really learning our craft. But by the second year we couldn’t wait to expand our courses.”

The sisters feared that many people had lost the home cooking habit, thanks to an easy reliance on quick convenience food. But they soon realised that home cooking was making a comeback.

Now their calendar of events is being expanded to make sure their classes give clients the ‘bit of a do’ that the sisters strive for. From hen parties and crash courses for brides, complete with bespoke recipe books, to cupcake and cocktail classes or specialist sessions for the more ambitious cooks, there is something for everyone.

Joan adds: “We are all about home cooking and teach our students to create dishes that they would really want to make at home and what works in real kitchens.”

Their latest programme of workshops includes an array of events to tempt the most discerning palate. Hands-on sessions include sushi and Champagne, creating edible delights using nature’s gifts from the hedgerows, party drinks and cupcakes and cocktails.

This season’s special guest demonstrations will see food historian Ivan Day, famed for his appearances on recent television shows such as the BBC’s Royal Upstairs Downstairs.

The sisters are also taking advantage of the increase in popularity of game so award-winning expert Nichola Fletcher will be teaching the students about venison and game birds.

For those who prefer to mix drinks rather than ingredients, there are wine masterclasses and summer cocktail sessions with the Newcastle Academy of Bartenders. “It’s all about creating real down-to-earth, unpretentious, practical recipes and ideas,” says Joan. “You just have to have the confidence to try.”

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