Alix Gardner’s Cookery School

alix gardner

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 gardner's cookery school

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.

cookery school

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.

alix gardner cookery 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.

alix gardner

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.

cookery school

While we were chatting Alix was cooking lunch for us both: leek fritters (recipe from Yotam Ottoleghni’s Plenty) with a tomatoe salsa. It was divinely delicious.

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.

20 Comments

Filed under Dublin, Education, Food/Wine

20 responses to “Alix Gardner’s Cookery School

  1. She has such an interesting story and how nice that the two of you are friends! I really like your photos too.

  2. Fabulous!

    It’s a mark of a good teacher that you know how to take shortcuts and improvise. I peeked at her school online, and it looks simply wonderful.

    And I love the word “kitchenalia.” It has been woefully missing from our lexicon and I am officially importing it now.

    • Yes, I hadn’t thought about it but you don’t often see the word “kitchenalia” – so I am glad you are “officially” importing it back into the lexicon. And yes I agree that it’s a mark of a good teacher that I know how to improvise, and cooking is so often about improvisation and the accidental discover of new recipes. I am always amazed at how many recipes there are out there and yet there is always someone creating something new or a different take on an old recipe.

      • Cooking is (at least for me) a creative art. And, quite a few of the cooks I know are artists, too, (painters, sculptors, photographers, poets & writers…) definitely a connection between cooking and creating.

  3. Leek fritters! How did you know that just a short while ago I was out in the garden wondering what to do with the few last leeks? Those fritters look delicious. Love the kitchenalia cupboard. Isn’t it a pleasure to be in such a welcoming environment?

  4. Your lunch looks terrific. Nice to have a friend that has inspired your cooking.

  5. How wonderful! I just took a quick peek at her dessert class and am now consumed by the idea of making pears poached in white wine an saffron. It simply sounds delicious! I’m sure that you know all sorts of tips and tricks after learning from such a great teacher!

  6. What a great story and fun initiative! Alix must definitely be a good friend to have. 🙂 And your photographs look beautiful, B.

    • Thanks for the compliment on the images Stefano. I found it hard to get decent shots, as it was a dull day and the kitchen is a basement one. I really need to join a camera club to learn more, I have been meaning to do it for ages but what with moving recently, I put off finding one. 😉

  7. Your friend’s website looks great and there are so many classes and choices. I wouldn’t mind taking 3 or 4 classes myself. You never stop learning especially from people who have been in the business for so many years! I wish I had a friend like yours when I started cooking 4 years ago. At the beginning I was completely lost! 😉

  8. Hi Francesca,

    I first met Alix many years ago when I went to one of her courses and I learnt such a lot. I agree you never stop learning and after chatting to Alix recently and especially tasting the delicious fritters she made I am enthused about trying out new recipes, I had stopped experimenting and I am glad I feel like doing so again. 😉

  9. My idea of a perfect morning spent cooking up a feast. Love the look of those leek fritters…

  10. What a lovely story and such a yummy picture of the fritters.

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