In 1954, a young cookery writer named Iris Syrett decided to run a cookery course for 6 of her friend’s daughters. The following year she taught 10 and the year after that, 50, and Tante Marie School of Cookery was established as the UK’s first independent cookery school. Now known as Tante Marie Culinary Academy, it continues to lead the way as the UK’s longest established cookery school, in a market which now comprises some 1,000 cookery schools.
Tante Marie Culinary Academy’s internationally acclaimed Cordon Bleu Diploma has become a benchmark for culinary training and when Tier 4 and the Points Based System was established, the Academy turned to international qualifications awarding body, The Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality, to create an accredited qualification, written around their existing course, which would enable Tante Marie to retain its sponsor status. The resulting qualification, the CTH Level 4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts is now also being delivered at Leiths School of Food and Wine and Ashburtons Chefs Academy, both BAC accredited colleges.
Having a business which is still going strong after 62 years, and retaining BAC accreditation for 31 years, is largely down to the Academy’s focus on its core business: teaching professional cookery skills with a practical focus, in a supportive and fun learning environment, whilst also ensuring students develop the high levels of discipline required to cook beautiful food to the highest standards. The Academy focuses on ensuring graduates leave with a complete range of culinary skills which will enable them to adapt to any environment where food really matters, and to present themselves as highly skilled and inspirational cooks, with exciting career prospects ahead of them. The Academy provides classical, skills focussed training, applied with a contemporary approach and most importantly retains a focus on attention to detail and the value of core skills.
The Academy’s Managing Director, Andrew Maxwell, has seen food trends evolve greatly since he started cooking professionally in 1998, but comments that, “Many of the trends we have seen in this period, come and go. There have been novelties and ‘of the moment’ trends which we always pay attention to, but most of them last for 5 minutes before something else comes along. The one trend which has always been there and always will be, is core, classical skill.”
In 2015 the Academy opened The Restaurant at Tante Marie to critical acclaim and, during its first year, multiple awards. This exciting next step offers students the opportunity to gain hands on experience in a live kitchen, a route to employment for graduates who want to transition to paid employment and, in keeping with Tante Marie’s education ethos, a platform to deliver academic progression through an apprenticeship towards a new qualification. Tante Marie reinforced its relationship with CTH in 2014 by developing the new, Level 5 Diploma in Culinary and Hospitality Management. The qualification is offered to graduates of the Level 4 Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts through a 12 month apprenticeship during which students work across every area of The Restaurant. They clean the windows and loos, they circulate the daily financial reports, they serve the customers and create the food and in so doing, they learn how to provide fabulous hospitality.
Throughout this continuing evolution, retaining BAC accreditation has been an important priority for Tante Marie Culinary Academy, providing valuable recognition of the quality of its training provision, reassurance for prospective students and recognition of the hard work and dedication of its team.
By Andrew Maxwell, Managing Director and Principal of Tante Marie