Tea with Lady G
A new cookery school opens in Yorkshire with fun on the menu
Tea with Lady G
A new cookery school has opened in North Yorkshire with fun as well as food on the menu. Jo Haywood tucks in
We’ve had Two Fat Ladies and the Hairy Bikers, but is the world ready for the latest cooking double act? ‘God, I hope we’re not known as the Hairy Ladies,’ jokes Caroline Whalley as we sit with coffee and biscuits around the squash court sized central island in the kitchen of Lady G’s Cookery School near Richmond. ‘We’re more like the Two Ronnies.’Her colleague and fellow Cordon Bleu cook, Lady Georgina Anderson (the ‘Lady G’ in question, although she prefers just ‘G’), raises her eyebrows in mock admonition. They seem like a double act who have honed their repartee over years, but they actually only met a little over a year ago.But what a year it has been. Not only have they set up their own catering company, but they’ve also just launched a cooking school at Middleton Lodge, a prestigious 17-bedroom Georgian mansion set in 200 acres of glorious parkland at Middleton Tyas.James Allison, who took over the house and grounds from his parents five years ago, has big plans for the estate, including a River Cottage-style restaurant, deli and farm shop in a converted stable block. But that is for tomorrow; for today, he hosts weddings, corporate events and private house parties, as well as keeping an eye on G and Caroline in the kitchen. Or should that be the other way round?‘They are like two more sisters to add to the three I’ve already got,’ he says. ‘And they all boss me around relentlessly.’‘Just wait until you get married,’ says Caroline. ‘There’ll be six of us then and you won’t stand a chance.’This banter is indicative of the relaxed atmosphere at Lady G’s. It’s fun, laid back and with the emphasis placed firmly on building confidence in the kitchen. Both women have successful careers in restaurants and catering behind them, but they also have the enviable knack of creating a relaxed front-of-house ambience too.‘We both love working with people,’ says G, who has just qualified as a counsellor and finds her newfound psychotherapy skills useful when working with nervous students. ‘We don’t frown on mistakes - they’re the only way to learn. We want to make people feel happy and confident in the kitchen. We want to draw them out.’The duo originally thought about teaching people to cook in their own homes, but when they were introduced to James and his incredible family-run estate, they immediately saw the potential for a more ambitious cookery school. Although their first face-to-face meeting with the man himself was less than auspicious.‘He was hanging out of a first floor window,’ says Caroline. ‘To be honest, I think that made us like the idea of working with him even more.’He was actually hanging out of the window with a practical aim in mind; it needed fixing and he had his mountaineering harness to hand. But even so, he made quite a striking first impression.James has worked hard in the five years he has been holding the reins at Middleton Lodge, rejuvenating every room and bringing life back into what had become quite a tired property. He prides himself on the welcoming atmosphere and encourages guests to treat his home as their own.‘This really is a home from home experience,’ says Caroline. ‘People see our courses as a bit of time for themselves. They’re not fraught days, they’re relaxing.’Lady G’s one-day courses are generally aimed at people wanting to brush up on their culinary skills while adding a few more recipes to their repertoire. The student (pre- and post-university) and chalet courses are set at a more basic level and include advice on playing host, budgeting, shopping and time management.‘People usually take on the job of cooking in a chalet because they want to ski,’ says Caroline. ‘This means that time management is absolutely vital. Whether they’re knocking up a lasagne or sausage and mash for a package party, or something more high end for a private house party, we show them the essential prep they’ll need to grab a couple of hours on the slopes.‘They also have to learn to be a host as well as a cook because a welcoming smile and winning attitude will make a skiing party much more forgiving when you burn the toast.’The cookery school has only been up and running for a matter of weeks, but Caroline and G are already thinking long-term, perhaps even expanding into branded merchandise. But would Lady G be happy to follow in Jamie and Nigella’s footsteps and see her name on pots, pans and spatulas in kitchens across the country.‘I really wasn’t sold on the idea of using my name at all to be honest,’ she says. ‘But I was convinced… eventually.’Caroline and James, on the other hand, were convinced from day one that Lady G’s Cookery School carried just the right combination of class and accessibility.‘G never uses her title,’ says Caroline. ‘But we knew it was perfect. It’s got that typically English feel to it without being too stuffy and dry. Basically, it’s posh but friendly.’
Cookery coursesLady G’s offers a range of seasonal courses as well as regular sessions aimed at pre- and post-university students and chalet hosts.A one-day residential course costs �195, including an overnight stay, dinner and country breakfast. A four-day residential student cookery course ranges from �550-650. And a four-day residential chalet course ranges from �580-680.All students have exclusive use of the lodge, with its spacious classical rooms and contemporary d�cor, and can try their hand at tennis, snooker, croquet and archery before heading to the bar.For further details, phone 07957 144467 or go to www.ladygscookeryschool.com.
Where is it?Middleton Lodge is just 1.5 miles from junction 56 of the A1 at Middleton Tyas, near Richmond in North Yorkshire. It has 17 luxuriously appointed bedrooms, a spacious dining room and four reception rooms, catering for private house parties of up to 34 adults and six children. Up to 70 people can be entertained in the house, with room for a more substantial 200 in a marquee in the grounds. For further details, phone 01325 377977 or click on www.middletonlodge.co.uk.