Yacht sous chef Rachel Cunningham visited Ashburton Cookery School to do the patisserie week in March 2020. She took us all along for the ride by doing an Instagram takeover that week. If you missed it, you can find them all saved in the stories highlights bar on our IG page.
What made you decide on the Ashburton Cookery school?
I had heard so much about the school through other yacht chefs, and I wanted to see for myself what it was all about. For the past few years I’ve wanted to do a course there, but the dates never really worked with my leave.
This time I was able to move my holiday dates a bit more because we had such a long yard period ahead of us. I had heard the instructors at Ashburton were amazing, and that they really accommodated yacht chefs in their classes.
It was funny because, there were actually 3 yacht chefs on this course, out of a class size of only 7 students, so I guess the word is spreading!
Why did you do the week-long patisserie course?
I felt like my pastry skills were lacking, to be honest. The past few years I have worked on boats where I haven’t really needed to do much baking. On one hand, that’s great, but on the other, it meant I really hadn’t been pushing myself as much as I should have.
It was great to be able to take advantage of the downtime by upskilling with some more “formal” cooking classes.
Immerse yourself in the world of pastries and desserts and master the fundamental skills required to create a wide range of classic patisserie and contemporary dessertsAshburton Cookery School
What did you make on 5 day patisserie week?
Omg, so much food! it was insane how much the instructors were able to cram into the week. It really was an intense crash course on patisserie. They left no stone unturned with the curriculum. I don’t think we could have learnt more skills if we tried!
On the first day, we made Croissant dough, sweet crust dough, shortcrust dough, brioche, creme brulee, banana muffins and pasty dough. That became the basis for the rest of our dishes throughout the week. We blind baked a lot of tart cases to turn into quiches and fruit tarts, we made puff pastry for pithiviers, millefeuille and danishes.
All throughout the course, the instructors would tell us ways to make variations of each dish, how to freeze them or how to best prep parts for use later. Some of those tips and hints I know will save my ass on future charters!!
We also covered souffle, pain perdu, carrot cake, Madeira cake and a chocolate creameaux. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I was really impressed with how many dishes I can now confidently make.
They also taught us dessert garnishes like fluid gel and fruit caviar. And other sweet treats like marshmallows, truffles and pate de fruits. Seriously, there were SO many things that we made!!
What other courses does the Ashburton Cookery School offer?
The school has over 40 different cookery courses ranging from half-day taster courses right up to the 30-week advanced diploma in cuisine and patisserie course.
You can easily book a week-long course such as intermediate or advanced cookery and then tack on a weekend course in Fish and Seafood or Thai. or even a one day course in something specific like Greek meze or breadmaking.
How was Ashburton for yacht chefs?
It’s clearly one of the yacht chef schools of choice! Pretty much half of the students in my class were yacht chefs, and one guy owned a catering company doing festivals, the other 3 students were there out of interest, but they kept up pace really well.
Even though the course was intermediate, it was broken down in such a way that everyone got valuable information out of it. The “housewives” learnt how to freeze down smaller portions for their next dinner party, while the yacht chefs were given hints on how to change the recipe slightly for different dietary requirements.
We were also taught quite a few recipes that weren’t in the curriculum. As time allowed, if we had spare dough, the instructors would give us ideas on what to do with it, or how to turn the offcuts into another dish.
There were some hints in there that my crew are going to love, that’s for sure!!
Yacht chefs are expected to think on their feet at all time, and having these backup dishes in the freezer or knowing how best to whip up something off the top of my head is going to be invaluable.
The Yacht chef Course
Ashburton cookery school offer a 2 weeks yacht chef course.
This course has been designed for those cooking on Luxury Yachts (min 24m+) whose primary role is to cater for up to 10 guests to provide a fresh breakfast, light lunches, snacks and an evening fine-dining service with canapes, starters, mains and desserts.
For those currently cooking on smaller sailing charters, this course will help build your skills and confidence to develop your career further.Ashburton Cookery School Yacht Chef Course Description
On a personal level, I’d absolutely recommend Ashburton cookery school for yacht chefs. I’m already trying to figure out when I can get back there to do my next course!
A massive thank you to the students who did the course with me. They suffered through my bad jokes and incessant photo and boomerang taking like champions.
How to get there
I hired a car from the airport and drove down. I’m not sure I would recommend this way to be honest. After a 15 hour flight, the drive was long and not the most fun. The upside is having your own car while you are in Ashburton. I was able to drive around freely and explore Dartmoor better.
One of the better ways to get there is to get the train to Exeter. Trains run frequently from London, or better, get a flight to Exeter, and a taxi from the airport.
Where to stay
Ashburton has partnered with a local place in town that offers rooms from 69pounds and includes breakfast and a bus to and from the school. Most people on the course were staying there and had nothing but good things to say about the place. I went out for group dinners a couple of times with Chris, the owner, and he was lovely. Ask him about getting a dog if you do stay there 😉
I stayed at Shelia’s Airbnb, halfway between town and the school. You can book directly on Airbnb. She has 2 rooms that she lets out at around 35-40 Euros a night.
Sheila is happy with you using her kitchen, so long as you clean up after of course! And there is plenty of roadside parking if you do choose to drive down. The room was spacious, clean and bright. You share the bathroom, but it’s no big deal. It’s also only a short walk to the school if you want.
To see the calendar of classes or to book your next chef course, contact Ashburton Cookery School directly.