Ireland's 30 top cookery schools
Jillian Bolger discovers some sizzling courses to teach everyone from beginners to budding masterchefs to cook a culinary extravaganza.
Best for beginners
1 Alix Gardner Cookery School
What: Alix Gardner, a highly respected cookery teacher with over 20 years' teaching experience, hosts classes at her accessible Waterloo Road base. Scheduled evening classes hold eight students and private classes - popular with corporate groups, book clubs and hen parties - can accommodate 16. Offering more than a dozen courses over the year, her Absolute Beginners and Cooking with Confidence classes are ideal for kitchen newbies.
Where: 71 Waterloo Rd, Dublin 4.
Contact: (01) 668-1553;
2 Fiacri Country House
What: At the lovely Fiacri Country House in North Tipperary, Ailish Hennessy's Favourite Recipe nights teach a starter, main and dessert, offering a clever approach to mastering a three-course meal in one go. Best of all are her five-week sessions, taught every Tuesday night in September, where you'll end up with a repertoire of soups, starters, mains, desserts, special occasion dishes and everyday family dishes. At €160, it's exceptionally good value.
Where: Boolereagh, Knock, Roscrea, Co Tipperary.
Contact: (505) 43017; fiacrihouse.com
3 Hook & Ladder
What: With two stylish locations, in Waterford and Limerick, Hook & Ladder's courses are designed to cater for all levels and abilities. Healthy Eating and Modern Vegetarian are both popular classes, although The Whole Cow is a top-seller too! With 12 participants per class, their Introduction to Cooking runs over four weeks year-round (in Limerick only) and covers everything from knife skills to shellfish, sauces to roasts. There's also an advanced four-week course for honing your skills. Tutors include Michael Quinn, the award-winning chef formerly of Waterford Castle.
Where: 7 Sarsfield St, Limerick; and Westgate Retail Park, Tramore Rd, Waterford.
Contact: Waterford, (051) 850765; Limerick, (061) 348692; hookandladder.ie
4 Lady Eve Cookery
What: Ballymaloe-trained Lady Eve, aka Nikki Walsh, welcomes students to her elegant Donnybrook home to learn the basics of great cooking. From Explosive Vegetarian Cooking to Food for Family & Friends, Teenagers' Cook Camp to A Taste of Asia, she also specialises in courses on getting the best from your Aga. A mix of demos and hands-on sessions, her Forbidden Fruit class is especially for single folk with an equal ratio of men and woman, while her three-course dinner party always sells out quickest.
Where: Donnybrook, Dublin 4.
Contact: 086 227 0125; ladyevecookery.com
5 James St South Cookery School
What: One of Belfast's top restaurants, James St South runs a purpose-built interactive cookery school with an appealing selection of well-run courses. Chef-patron Niall McKenna and the head chefs from the restaurant share the role of tutor throughout the year, with How to Cook the Perfect Steak and BBQ Masterclass top-sellers, alongside Curry & Beer and Italian Cooking. Classes fall under titles like Fish and Shellfish, Meat, BBQs, Baking and Desserts, Effortless Entertaining, Bread, Cocktails, Italian and Curry, with 10 guests per class for a full practical course.
Where: 21 James Street South, Belfast.
Contact: (048) 95600701; cookinbelfast.co.uk
Best for experienced cooks
6 Aniar Boutique Cookery School
What: On Monday nights, when Aniar is closed to customers, students can enjoy tuition under the watchful eye of formidable chef JP McMahon. One-day workshops include How to be a Better Cook or Planning a Dinner Party while popular six-week courses (held on Monday evenings) include the comprehensive Understanding Food which covers everything from bread making to fish, pork and poultry. With a maximum of six per class, this offers great hands-on interaction.
Where: 53 Lower Dominick St, Galway.
Contact: (091) 535 947; aniarrestaurant.ie
7 Ballymaloe Cookery School
What: Darina and Rachel Allen and Rory O'Connell are just three of the reasons Ballymaloe Cookery School is so popular. The global success runs three 12-week certificate courses each year that are always fully subscribed to, yet the cookery school in an organic farm offers a huge choice of shorter innovative classes with Darina travelling extensively to spot the next big food trend, whether it's in New York, West Coast America, London or Burma. Short courses include entertaining, foraging, afternoon tea and canapés, all of which fill up quickly. With the most exciting programme, big international guest chefs and best teacher-to-student ratio of any major cookery school, it's easy to see why.
Where: Shanagarry, Co Cork.
Contact: (021) 4646785; cookingisfun.ie
8 Croan Cottages
What: While not specifically a cookery school, Croan Cottages is a smallholding with self-catering cottages in rural Kilkenny. On April 15, they're running a superb three-day cookery course with two of River Cottage's key members, Steven Lamb and Gill Meller, who've been working with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for over a decade. Participants will learn curing and smoking, fish cookery, pig in a day techniques, bread making and savoury pies, amongst many other things. The residential course costs €690, including three-nights' accommodation, full board, including drinks with dinner, all lessons and goodies to bring home.
Where: Dunnamaggin, Co Kilkenny.
Contact: (056) 776 6868; croancottages.com
9 Dublin Cookery School
What: Lynda Booth's Dublin Cookery School runs Saturday, evening, and one-week courses from an impressive purpose-built base in Blackrock. They also offer a One Month and professional Three Month Certificate programmes pitched at those looking to work in the food industry. There's a choice of 50 different courses, although their Chefs' Skills and Patisserie Masterclass are ideal for competent cooks looking to push their culinary skills. Both courses feature guest chefs from Michelin Star restaurants - Enda McEvoy, head chef at Loam in Galway and Aoife Noonan, head pastry chef at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, respectively.
Where: 2 Brookfield Tce, Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Contact: (01) 210-0555; dublincookeryschool.ie
10 The Tannery
What: Celebrity chef Paul Flynn's excellent Tannery has long been a destination restaurant for food lovers and his beautiful, bright cookery school follows the same exemplary commitment to food. The Advanced Masterclass with Paul and Cooking with Friends are two of their most popular, accommodating up to 14 people on a practical hands-on course. Alongside the well-planned and interesting schedule, they host a strong line-up of guest tutors and the themed kitchen suppers each month in the cookery school - the Moroccan or Italian courses are always popular.
Where: 10 Quay Street, Dungarvan, Co Waterford.
Contact: (058) 45420; tannery.ie
Best for baking
11 Baking Academy of Ireland
What: Not a cookery school, but a baking school, Baking Academy covers everything from French macarons to paleo baking and cake decorating, as well as offering one-day courses on bread, cakes and desserts. Their Real Bread and Sourdough classes are the most popular with Baketacular, a parent-and-child class offered during school holidays an especially fun idea.
Where: 20 Old Lucan Rd, Palmerstown Village, Dublin 20.
Contact: (01) 845-1214; bakingacademyireland.ie
12 The Cake Café
What: One of Dublin's most scrumptious destinations, Michelle Darmody's Cake Café of Camden Street plies some of the tastiest cakes imaginable. No surprise then that the café's baking classes are always sell-outs. Running one Monday a month, from 6.30-9.30pm, participants will bake delicious cakes, pastry and two desserts. All ingredients are provided and, best of all, you take home your box of goodies afterwards! Classes cost €55 and fill up quickly.
Where: The Daintree Building, Pleasant's Place, Dublin 8.
Contact: (01) 478-9394; thecakecafe.ie
13 Cloughjordan House Cookery School
What: 400-year-old Cloughjordan House is an atmospheric setting for learning to cook. Alongside hosting Transition Year Field to Fork tours, they specialise in custom-designing private group classes for 16 to 22 people. Suited to hen parties, family get-togethers or corporate groups, classes range from bread, pastry and cake baking, to entertaining and seasonal cookery. Everything they prepare is focused around fresh and, where possible, home-grown seasonal ingredients with their walled garden providing many of the vegetables, and house-reared pigs the pork.
Where: Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary.
Contact: (505) 42492; cloughjordanhouse.com
14 Firehouse Bakery & Bread School
What: Specialising exclusively in bread, Firehouse is run by baker extraordinaire Patrick Ryan. Located on Heir island, a tiny island off the coast of West Cork, students travel by boat to spend a relaxing day away from the real world. The island setting and wood-fired oven make for a memorable experience with just seven students per class. Sourdough breads, yeasted doughs, soda breads and sweet baking are all covered. For those tight on time, there's a shorter evening course offered at Firehouse's bakery in Delgany, Co Wicklow.
Where: Heir Island, Skibbereen, Co Cork; and Old Delgany Inn, Delgany, Co Wicklow.
Contact: 085 1561984; thefirehouse.ie
15 Robyn's Nest Cookery School
What: Linda Callan and her two daughters run Robyn's Nest, a cosy boutique cookery school in North Dublin specialising in home cooking. Saturday baking is always a sell-out, whether it's a pastry masterclass, bread baking or cupcakes and tray bakes. Quick and Easy Suppers and Winter Warmers are especially popular at the moment, with courses changing seasonally. More unusual classes include a Come Dine with Us supper evening hosted by various local chefs, and there's an Afternoon Tea class too.
Where: Town Centre Mall, Swords, Co Dublin.
Contact: 087 2556309; cookerycourses.ie
Best for seafood
16 Belfast Cookery School
What: The folks from Mourne Seafood are behind Belfast Cookery School with experienced chef Stephen Jeffers manning the operation. He teaches across an interesting and varied schedule where, understandably, there's a strong focus on fish. Amongst classes as diverse as Asian Street Food, Knife Skills and Perfect Steak you'll find Simply Fish and Fish Masterclasses running every month.
Where: 53 Castle St, Belfast.
Contact: (048) 90 234722; belfastcookeryschool.com
17 Cooks Academy
What: "People often come back five or six times after their first visit. They become a little addicted and browse our schedule of courses like they are in a sweet shop, selecting their favourite foods," explains Cooks Academy owner Vanessa Greenwood. Offering over 50 types of classes, it's hard to narrow down Cooks Academy into one category. With seafood and sushi courses two of the excellent city-centre school's most popular offerings (alongside Thai and Italian) it's a smart place to come for a better understanding of fish. A typical class has 12-16 people, and they constantly feature great Irish chefs as guest tutors.
Where: 19 South William St, Dublin 2.
Contact: (01) 611-1667; cooksacademy.com
18 Dingle Cookery School
What: Alongside over 40 different classes, including more traditional choices, like Asian cooking or Pig and Lamb Butchery, Dingle Cookery School capitalises on its beautiful location to offer two exciting coastal courses. Catch & Cook includes a two-hour fishing trip on Dingle Bay before returning with your catch to the school for a hands-on session. The Seashore foraging class spends three hours out by the shore learning how to identify and harvest different seaweeds, before turning them into a versatile menu.
Where: An Choill, Dingle, Co Kerry.
Contact: 086 8723521; dinglecookeryschool.ie
19 Good Things Restaurant & Cookery School
What: Having earned a loyal fan base for her delicious cooking, despite its remote location, Carmel Somers' Good Things Café and Cookery School have just moved into a lovely new premises in Skibbereen. Sharing the secrets of her delicious fare, Carmel takes all classes herself, offering everything from two-day Miracle Programmes to a Man Never in the Kitchen class. Given the coastal location and abundance of local seafood, her Hands on Fish and Dozen Funky Fish dishes are both recommended.
Where: 68 Bridge St, Skibbereen, Co Cork.
Contact: (027) 61426; thegoodthingscafe.com
20 Howth Castle Cookery School
What: Set within the beautifully restored Georgian kitchen of Howth Castle, this atmospheric cookery school runs a selection of popular courses, from a three-month culinary programme (Monday to Friday daytime) to fun evening cook and dine programmes. Given its proximity to Howth Harbour it's no surprise that Feast from the Sea is one of its most popular classes, starting off with a visit to a local fish shop to teach you how best to select fish types, then bringing it back to the school to prepare and enjoy with a glass of wine. Other best-selling classes include Indian, Moroccan, Paleo and Bread Making.
Where: Howth, Co Dublin.
Contact: (01) 839-6182; howthcastlecookeryschool.com
Best for family cooks
21 Ballyknocken House & Cookery School
What: Popular TV chef Catherine Fulvio may be known for her Italian cooking but the talented chef offers courses for cooks of all interests at her lovely Wicklow cookery school. 7 Nights 7 Meals 1 Plan, Fabulous Mains and Desserts and Southern Italian Cooking are all great courses for those cooking for a family. All guests enjoy the herb, soft fruit and vegetable gardens at Ballyknocken Farm and the schedule changes frequently to reflect new trends, such as Match Food and Craft Beer and Retro Desserts Restyled, both coming up this month. Ballyknocken also offers accommodation and dinner in the seven-bedroomed 1850s farmhouse.
Where: Glenealy, Co Wicklow.
Contact: (404) 44627; ballyknocken.ie
22 Donnybrook Fair
What: Upstairs at foodie favourite Donnybrook Fair's flagship store on Morehampton Road, in Dublin, this modern cookery school offers a good mix of demonstration, hands-on and educational classes. Their most popular classes include Easy Seafood, Start your own Food Business and The Great DF Bake Off. Classes have between 10 and 12 participants. With Midweek Meals, Kids and Teenage classes, Pasta and Bread courses this offers a great repertoire for cooks with hungry families.
Where: 89 Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.
Contact: (01) 668-3556 ext 203; donnybrookfair.ie
23 Dunbrody House
What: Kevin Dundon's Dunbrody House on the Hook Peninsula is also home to his beautiful cookery school. With a choice of one and two-day courses and a Five-Day Masterclass, you'll find everything from BBQ & Grill courses to A Touch of Spice and The Art of Slow Cooking. Weekend classes sell out fastest (often paired with accommodation in the beautiful country house) but new half-day and evening courses are scheduled for the autumn. All the classes are designed by Kevin Dundon and carried out by the cookery school chef Julien Clemot.
Where: Arthurstown, Co Wexford.
Contact: (051) 389600; dunbrodyhouse.com
24 Just Cooking Kerry
What: Alongside a selection of 30 different classes Just Cooking's Easy Family, Italian, One Pot, Five Meals for the Freezer and Home Baking courses make it an attractive choice for a family cook. Their popular Big Chef/Little Chef class takes place on the occasional Saturday morning and combines an adult and child's lesson, where you will cook together as a pair. At €60 for both participants together, it's a lovely idea for a fun and memorable morning with hidden practical value.
Where: Killahane, Firies, Killarney, Co Kerry.
Contact: (066) 979 3660; justcooking.ie
25 The Neven Maguire Cookery School
What: The man behind one of the busiest restaurants in Ireland, Neven Maguire's cookery school is keeping this hard-working chef even busier. Built in 2014, the purpose-built facility offers small cookery classes for all levels with Neven teaching each group. A combination of hands-on learning and demos by Neven and his team, there's a choice of half-day and full-day classes. Options include Entertainment made Easy, Cooking for Friends, Mastering Meats, Fruits of the Sea and Parent & Child classes.
Where: Blacklion, Co Cavan.
Contact: (071) 9853022; nevenmaguire.com
Best for ethnic cooking
26 East Coast Cookery School
What: Tara Walker welcomes students to her relaxed and friendly home-based cookery school where the Cordon Bleu-trained chef offers a broad range of classes. Healthy, Wholesome & Hasty is one of her most popular classes, teaching students how to cook using little or no butter, cream, flour or sugar. Casual Suppers for Friends, A Taste of Asia (Vietnam & Thailand) and The Foods of North Africa & the Middle East are favourites too. All classes have a healthy slant with trips like a visit to the harbour or local farm shop preceding some classes.
Where: Sandpit, Termonfeckin, Co Louth.
Contact: 087 98 93871; eastcoastcookeryschool.ie
27 Fairyhouse Cookery School
What: Offering a wide choice of one-day courses covering everyday cooking, entertaining and skills, Fairyhouse Cookery School's itinerary stands out for its appealing range of international classes. Mexican Table, Taste of Thailand, Taste of Morocco & The Middle East, Italian Kitchen Favourites and Mediterranean & Spanish Tapas all promise to take the most adventurous of cookery students on a delicious culinary journey. Courses are geared towards home cooks and suitable for all levels.
Where: Fairyhouse Rd, Ratoath, Co Meath.
Contact: (01) 689-6476; fairyhousecookeryschool.com
28 Kate's Place Café and Cookery School
What: Kate Wright's popular Oranmore Café is also home to a lovely cookery school, surrounded by nature, where she shares her love of good food weekly. Especially interested in healthy, natural foods she offers 16 courses throughout the year including Vegetarian, Gluten and Wheat-Free Baking, Italian Nights and her new Superfood Specials, which has proven especially popular. Vegetarian World continues to be her most popular class, and includes fragrant ingredients, techniques and dishes from Mexico, the Middle East, the Med and Italy.
Where: Orantown Centre, Oranmore, Co Galway.
29 Kinsale Gourmet Academy
What: The magnificent Ballinacurra House is home to Kinsale Gourmet Academy, a purpose-built cookery school offering a broad range of classes. Their four- or six-week courses are most popular, with students returning for consecutive Thursday evenings to develop their skills (and enjoy dinner together at the end of each class). All classes are hands-on, with everything from Bread Making Workshops to Food from the Sea. We especially like the sound of their international courses, covering everything from Curry Club to Sushi Masterclass and Spanish Tapas to Fusion Flavours.
Where: Ballinacurra House, Kinsale, Co Cork.
Contact: (021) 4779040; kinsalegourmetacademy.com
30 School of Food
What: A community initiative, Kilkenny's School of Food's mission is to train chefs to fill the gap for the restaurant and hotel businesses. They also run courses for amateurs on two Wednesdays and one Saturday every month. A varied programme includes courses like Winter Warmers, Tuscan Pasta and Sauces to Beer and Brewing (working with Costellos Beer in Kilkenny, who have installed a micro-brewery on the school's premises). Indian Curries and Sauces, taught by a chef from Royal Spice Indian Restaurant in Kilkenny city has proven to be one of their fastest selling courses.
Where: Kilkenny School of Food, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny.
Contact: (056) 775 4397; schooloffood.ie