On my journey to becoming a vegan chef, I was adamant about using only plant-based ingredients at every stage.
This ruled out traditional culinary school for me right off the bat. I was then left with the task of choosing between the surprising number of vegan cookery courses on offer across the UK.
I ruled most of these out too, as the majority of offerings were day courses, and I wanted a more in-depth study. It turns out beggars can be choosers, and I deliberated for all I was worth.
Finally, I found Demuths Cookery School in Bath. As well as offering courses that spanned up to two weeks, Demuths is a fully vegetarian company which, unsurprisingly, sat really well with me when deciding where to study.
All of the tutors at Demuths are experienced vegetarian or vegan chefs, each typically with expertise in different cuisines. Throughout my time studying the ‘Vegan 5 Day’ course and the 10-day long ‘Vegan Diploma’ I was guided through Mexico, Italy, Korea, Turkey and India, with many lay-overs in between.
On the 5 day course, a number of basics were covered: bread, knife skills, stock; and on the Diploma we branched out to hone presentation skills, more complex techniques and an array of different flavour combinations.
Each course is structured in the same basic way: tea, coffee and homemade vegan biscuits as the day begins, followed by a busy morning of cooking to make our lunch, and an afternoon spent working through another dish or skill, all interspersed with demonstrations from the tutors. I left each day with a stomach full of food, a brain full of new ideas, and a (few) tupperware dishes full of leftovers.
On the final day of the diploma, we were tasked with creating a ‘signature’ dish. It had to be a tart with a chickpea-flour egg-like filling, but could be flavoured however we liked.
Although no matter which angle I looked at owner Rachel Demuth from, she didn’t seem to look quite like Gregg Wallace, playing Masterchef was fun all the same.
For my final day challenge, I made a deconstructed, veganised version of a Quiche Lorraine, a sentence which I’m sure has only ever been spoken in comedy sketch shows.
I made a flat pastry disk for my tart element – the baked chickpea-flour filling, flavoured with caramelised leeks, standing alone. I added a smoked tempeh curl, chargrilled leeks, pea shoot salad and a cheesy sauce. I was really quite pleased with it, and so were my tutors. Happy days!
I loved my time at Demuths. Bath is a beautiful city – even when it does live up to its name by being soaking wet – I learnt an incredible amount, and grew dramatically in confidence. Completing a vegan diploma gave me the skills, knowledge and confidence I needed to become a chef with not an animal product in sight!