Alix Gardner’s first cookery lesson was with her mother when she learnt to master the art of making a cheese souffle. Alix’s mother was a good cook who had attended the Cordon Bleu School in London. She was sent there, prior to her marriage, by her future husband who looked upon the not insubstantial fee outlay for the course, his bride to be took, as an investment. Different times.
Alix followed in her mother’s footsteps and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu School’s full-time certificate course when she was just eighteen. When she finished her culinary studies she earned her living by cooking directors’ lunches in the City of London. These lunches were gargantuan calorie dense five course meals and eating them took up the entire afternoon. Different times again.
It was Alix’s then boyfriend, and now husband, John-Nick’s idea to come to Ireland and it was also his idea to open a cookery school. So shortly after she arrived here, twenty-five years ago, Alix set up Ireland’s first cookery school with just two students in the basement of Castletown House. She pretty soon realized that for the school to succeed she would need to find a centrally located premises in Dublin. The school moved once or twice before Alix found an ideal premises, close to the city centre, in Rathmines. And there she remained for several years teaching an array of classes until family life with two small children became her priority and she decided to close the school.
During the intervening years she sometimes thought evening classes in the basement kitchen of her house on Dublin’s Waterloo Road and this autumn after a couple of years away from teaching Alix restarted the school – details of the full range of classes are on her website here.
The kitchen where the classes are held is a warm homely room decorated neutrally but enlivened by splashes of colour and a window ledge filled with plants. One wall is taken up with a dresser filled mainly with an interesting collection of antique kitchenalia. There is ample room for students to prepare food and plenty of oven space to cook it in.
Alix and I chatted about many things including Alix’s love of the Great British Bake Off and she reminded me of two of baking’s golden rules: measure everything carefully and don’t open the oven door until the baked goods are cooked. Alix also talked about how easy it is to make a cake or a desert that comes out of the oven looking less than appealing into a thing of beauty by spending a few minutes on decoration.
Disclosure: Alix is a friend but I also know that she is a good teacher. She thought me much of what I know about food and cooking and although I now often use shortcuts and take liberties with recipes, thanks to her I know the proper way to make a vast range of culinary goodies.