What does your business do?
We run cookery classes! Each year we train 90 professional chefs, and we also offer more than 300 different evening, weekend and short-course classes in state of the art kitchens.
Some, such as ‘Knife Skills’ and ‘How to Cook the Perfect Steak’, focus on technique, others, such as ‘Flavours of the Pacific Rim’ and ‘Florence Knight’s Spring Kitchen’ focus on particular cuisines or are lead by guest chefs.
What motivated you to do what you do?
When Prue Leith (who you may have seen on The Great British Menu) and Caroline Waldegrave set up Leiths School of Food and Wine in 1975, aged 35 and 22, they had a clear mission. They wanted to improve the food we ate by training a new generation of chefs, giving them a comprehensive education in classic and modern cookery techniques. Their passion and vision created the school we know today.
What is your Unique Selling Point?
While we’ve built our reputation on teaching people really solid, traditional cooking skills they can rely upon, we’re also very modern and diverse. We have courses in more than 14 different world cuisines and we constantly adapt our classes to reflect new food trends. Getting out to eat at new restaurants to see what’s popular is one of the more exciting aspects of working at Leiths!
Really there’s no such thing! The beauty of working at Leiths is meeting new people from all walks of life. We’ll happily teach complete beginners right through to accomplished chefs. We run classes for teenagers in the school holidays, and The Observer recently wrote about the rising number of retired men taking our courses. In general terms we like people who are curious about food and keen to get stuck in!
What gives your business the edge over your competitors?
We’re well known in the restaurant business, some call us the Oxbridge of the food world, and popular chefs like Rick Stein are always keen to recruit the chefs we train, so that gives weight to the other areas of our business.
There are still a handful of places on Nutrition in Practice, which starts on Monday. It’s quite an exciting course because it brings so much together. We run the course in partnership with The Pure Package, an award-winning meal delivery service whose customers include Florence Welch, Hugh Jackman and Erin O’Connor. The course combines theory (things like managing food allergies and regulating blood sugar if you want to lose weight) with hands-on cooking, where you get to have a go at fermenting and sprouting, and testing equipment such as the Thermomix, dehydrator and sous-vide. You can join as a complete beginner and people have then gone on to start healthy cafés and catering services.
How do people get in touch with you?
They can call us on 0208 7496400 and speak to Pam or Julie on reception, email Rosie using firstname.lastname@example.org, or just pop in and see us. We’re very much into social media so you can find us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and Instagram for beautiful foodie pictures. We’re keen to grow our LinkedIn group as we offer a number of services to businesses, including corporate cooking classes, which are growing in popularity.
We’re very lucky because the recession didn’t have a negative effect on our business. Lots of people decided to use their redundancy money to learn how to cook. Things are still going well today but we never get complacent.
Our course prices are carefully benchmarked against our competitors, we only recruit teachers with impressive knowledge and experience, and we’ve introduced new little touches (such as croissants for breakfast for everyone who arrives at a Saturday class) to make sure everyone has a great time.
Where do you think your business will be in 5 year’s time?
The Leiths Diploma is the bread and butter of our business, so hopefully that will still be going strong. We’d also like to expand our corporate services. Teams can come in for the day, or for an evening, and we’ll provide good wine, beautiful ingredients, and expert cooking tuition. You may have found that over Christmas, you bonded with friends in the kitchen over a chopping board, and the same sort of thing tends to happen on our corporate events.
Has being a member of ABN helped your business?
We’ve only just joined, but so far the experience has been nothing but positive! We’re definitely interested in hearing from local businesses who would like to work with us on small projects or joint marketing.
What do you like about the Askew Road?
It’s peaceful, there’s good light, and it’s so friendly you wonder if you’re still in London! Del’s hardware shop somehow manages to have whatever you ask for, and Wendell Park is a great place to take a picnic, complete with Ginger Pig sausage rolls!
What do you think Askew Road will be like in 5 years time?
There’s a great community spirit here so we think it’ll still be going strong. If other areas in London are anything to go by, we think there will be more delis and restaurants! We’re certainly not complaining, Detour and Cake me Baby have been great additions to the Askew Road area.
It’s amazing how easy it is to find what you need from a relatively small selection of shops. It’s particularly good for gifts, with J W Beeton and Cocktail both offering a fantastic selection.
We adore Lavelli’s and often buy our bread there, and we’ve had some delicious Persian food at Sufi. We ordered lunch from Som Tam House before Christmas and it was extremely tasty. Our students can usually be found at The Eagle after a hard day’s cooking.
What shops and businesses do you think Askew Road lacks?
There are plenty of women in our business and we think there’s a demand for quick beauty services, like lunch break pedicures or back massages.