Cooking up a Storm with Northcote Cookery School, Lancashire

From burnt toast to Michelin boast; the Northcote Cookery School teaches fine dining and culinary excellence to home cooks and aspiring chefs of all levels. Apron on and whisk in hand, join Debby Donnelly-Addison as she spends a day learning from the pros…

Nestled in the picturesque Ribble Valley of Lancashire, the Northcote Hotel Cookery School offers an enchanting culinary experience like no other. Led by highly skilled chefs Ben Hinchliffe and Rick Ogden, who work alongside the famed chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen in their Michelin Star kitchen, this school has retained its prestigious Michelin star for nearly two decades.

With a commitment to locally sourced, sustainable ingredients and a “nose to tail” approach to produce, Northcote champions the essence of Lancashire’s dairies, farmers, and growers, providing a tantalizing opportunity for aspiring chefs and food enthusiasts alike.

Upon entering the Northcote Hotel Cookery School, I could not help but to be drawn into the warm and welcoming atmosphere us northerners are well known for. The day began with a comforting treat in the hotel snug, where hot buttered crumpets and tea warm you up for the culinary adventure ahead. The personal touch of receiving our own personalized aprons added a sense of anticipation and camaraderie among the participants, two of whom had never cooked anything beyond a cheese toastie but were keen to give their culinary skills a little zsa zsa zsu.

The private dining room, doubling as the cookery school, is a clean, modern space from which we could see the professionals busying away in the hotel kitchen, baking bread, and carrying out their mise en place for the upcoming lunch service. Fortunately, the Northcote team are far too busy prepping for me to have worried about them bursting into peals of laughter at the sight of me burning the onions for my bourguignon. Thank goodness. 

The Gastronomic Experience

Under the guidance of Chefs Ben Hinchliffe and Rick Ogden, we got to work preparing a captivating menu that showcased some of the finest local ingredients. Each dish was demonstrated to us first in the form of a brief masterclass complete with tips from the pros, copious cups of tea (well, this is Lancashire), and witty banter between our hosts. Starting with warm cured salmon in white balsamic butter sauce with dill oil and pickled cucumber, followed by the exquisite salt aged beef with a marrowbone crust and Pomme Anna, this was a menu few would attempt to create at home.

However, having Rick and Ben demonstrate how (and why) things are done at Northcote, and having it broken down into smaller, less daunting segments, instils confidence; when you understand both the produce and technique, that’s when the magic happens.  For dessert, we made Lisa Goodwin Allen’s Apple Cheesecake; a spherical dessert disguised as an apple, with a devilish dollop of spiced compote hidden within its centre.

Encouraged to unleash our creativity, we were then armed with aerosol cans of green and red cocoa butter used to transform our cheesecakes from creamy spheres into sun-blushed apples. This playful touch is left towards the end of day in case you have any colourful accidents and end up spending the rest of the course looking like the Incredible Hulk.

A Feast For The Senses

The sensory journey extended beyond the kitchen as we paused midday to savour a delectable two-course lunch in the dining room. Overlooking the lush hotel gardens and rolling hills of Lancashire, our lunch (and cheeky dessert) break was a welcome interlude from the heat of the cookery school and a good chance to chat with our fellow attendees about our experience so far.

Upon returning to class, we were treated to a surprise wine tasting with Northcote’s own Craig Bancroft, who took us through various wine pairings and some handy tips to boot. We then moved on to more tea and biscuits (again, Lancashire), before finishing the last cooks and blasting our desserts with colourful cocoa butter. 

Take Home The Magic

As the day drew to a close, we had the chance to sample our dishes and congratulate each other (and ourselves) on creating extraordinary dishes from scratch in just one day. Learning how to select ingredients, prepare, and cook a Michelin standard meal in less than 8 hours is not only mind blowing, but a strong testament to the quality of the training, chefs, and facilities hidden behind those swinging double doors into the Northcote kitchen.

But the enchantment didn’t end there; Northcote’s thoughtful gesture of providing all the prepared ingredients to take home allowed us to recreate the three-course dinner party menu in our own kitchens, giving us all chance to show off our fancy new culinary skills to our nearest and dearest. 

A Memorable Stay

For those seeking the full Northcote experience, it helps to book an overnight stay the night before your course. I stayed in a beautiful suite with a sweeping balcony that offered breathtaking views of the Ribble Valley.

The comfortable bed and modern, luxurious bathroom ensured a restful stay, making it a perfect base for the culinary adventure ahead. And let’s not forget the delightful touch of having a teddy bear named Huggie in every room, a warm companion to adopt during your stay.

The Wordrobe Verdict

The Northcote Hotel Cookery School is an absolute treasure trove for anyone passionate about all things delicious. With exceptional chef tutors, a commitment to sustainable, locally sourced ingredients, and an ambiance that exudes warmth and elegance, this school is a haven for aspiring cooks and fully blown foodies alike.

The memorable journey through the culinary arts, accompanied by the option to stay in the luxurious Northcote suites and indulge in the Michelin tasting menu, creates an unparalleled experience that promises to enthral, inspire, and leave a lasting impression. Embrace your inner chef and book your spot at the Northcote Hotel Cookery School for an extraordinary adventure that you’ll cherish forever.

Make it happen:
How: To book a spot at the Northcote Hotel Cookery School, visit their website at
Where: 0 Northcote Rd, Langho, Blackburn BB6 8BE

Words & images by Debby Donnelly-Addison

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