Cooking – The Passion & The Pain

This year I’ve had or booked in are 60 cookery courses, last year it was 48, the year before 39 – so its fair to say it’s getting busier every year.

I’ve been teaching cookery for over 15 years now, first working for Adult Education & Family learning where I got my qualifications in teaching and a tad of experience. At the same time, I ran ‘Cooking at 88’ from my home kitchen in Constitution Hill. At the time, I didn’t have a website, Instagram & twitter were non-existent and facebook was just a baby. So, most of my work came from friends, friends of friends and word of mouth – – I only did a few or so a year, so never thought much of it when we bought Lodge Farm.

I carried on teaching on occasional evenings and weekends for Ad Ed when we were living in the caravan and renovating Lodge Farm – but I never had any intentions on having a cookery school – I never had enough interest at 88, so it never crossed my mind.

But I did however have “The Milk Bar’ Lodge Farms American Diner and my intention back then in that space was to offer private dining, along with breakfasts and events for the holiday makers staying in our barns at Lodge Farm Holiday Barns.

But when I thought about how much time it would take to create the perfect burger, bake my own bap and cook the perfect accompaniments along with the costs – I soon realised it wasn’t going to be a viable idea.

One day – My hubby said, we need to earn more money. Lodge Farm was becoming a money pit with renovation costs souring and the barns costing an arm and a leg to furnish. So – – on facebook I advertised my first cookery course here at Lodge Farm Kitchen, a Thai. Six people booked on and four turned up – – I barely covered costs. And yet again, I put the thought of a viable cookery school in the back of my mind.

It was when I was working on my web site for the barns that my web designer said I could add a page for cookery courses – – – – wow, how the internet works!!! It was from then that it grew and grew – adding in a good measure of serial cookers and word of mouth fans.

People started asking for vouchers, for solo courses for couple date nights along with all sorts of wonderful foods.

And hence the development of the cookery course themes, dates and times came about as it is now.

For the last few years the mini theme for 2 has gone crazy, making up 75% off my courses, with 65% of that being Thai, followed by Asian Street food.

Of course, these came about because of my love of cooking, my passion to teach and my 30-years’ service in the catering trade from Norwich City College hotel school, to being Head chef at Eailing Film Studios to Management at (Prue) Leith’s and everything in between – – not even mentioning the writing, blogging, demos, event catering and charity teaching I do.

So, with things going crazy – – I’ve had to alter things around to make it manageable – after all this is supposed to be my part time passion job – don’t forget I’ve got the Holiday Barns to run let alone Love Norwich Food with the occasional walking tour + + +

The mini Theme for 2 is priced reasonably, but for me it’s just as much work with prep, shopping, paperwork and clearing down as a group course but half the money with nearly as much of the costs. And of course, the trouble is, people want the weekends – so I’m working weekends and the poor birthday parties can’t get in – so the first alternation was reserving the weekends for groups and parties.

Then there’s the vouchers – I’ve had several naughty people approach me after they ran out to book on – I’m a nice person, I’ve allowed it, but people aren’t always so accommodating back. I’ve always had to prioritise the vouchers getting them booked in and sometimes that means me working far too many shifts. With ‘work –  life’ levels out of the window and the family effected.

So, with my family telling me to slow down, I thought a good move would be to not offer vouchers any more. They take up lots of time and squeezing them in can be an issue sometimes.

When someone contacts me to book a course it’s because they want it – with vouchers that’s not always the case. And after all I teach because I love it – I want learners to love it too.


So – – in the bin. That will save those last-minute calls the day before Christmas asking me to send a voucher over – – – Halleluiah!!!!


It’s a bit like when you ask a contractor how works going and they say, ‘oh, it’s too busy, I’m having to turn work away’ and they seem irritated by it all – –

I’m a bit like that, not irritated yet but realise I’ve got to slow it down a bit to fit it all in with my other businesses. Otherwise in ten years-time I’ll be working 60 hour days! Hopefully, I’ll be retired by then.


So – – – for the love of food, I love teaching, I still love cooking, I absolutely love eating, I love meeting new people – I really love the cookery school.

But there’s only me – – – and I’ve only got so many hours in the week and sleeps a good thing – right!!!


So, sorry to the 8 courses I’ve not been able to fit in this year, and the 3 kid’s birthday parties that wanted a certain date but it was filled with those pesky mini themes for 2 – and sorry to those wanting a voucher for Christmas (I usually sell at least 12) – – you can still book yourself in. And a pre-warning ‘sorry’ to those who will be disappointed they can’t get a Saturday or a voucher.


But I’m pulling in the rains – – my horse is bolting at the mo and I want it to trot.

P.S – No horses were used in this dish, I’m not Tescos!



Happy cooking – –

Zena Leech-Calton ©