In the second of our exclusive DGWGO monthly blogs from Nick Morris the owner of the brand new Station House Cookery School in Kirkcudbright, we hear all about the work involved in converting the disused Kirkcudbright Railway Station into the South of Scotland’s first purpose built cookery school which is set to officially open on May 26th / 27th 2018.
Nick Said “So here I was. Owner of the old Station House in Kirkcudbright with my sights on turning it into a cookery school and café. Where to start?
I began by demolishing the insides of the building. It had quite a 1970s vibe to it, lots of very textured walls and interesting pinks and purples everywhere. As it had been a beauty and fitness studio it had a rabbit’s warren of small rooms and corridors. It was an amazing experience to take a sledge hammer and knock down those walls to reveal the beautiful 150 year old Station House. In our café I have been able to leave the original walls exposed as well as the beams in what used to be the Porter’s lodge. My Cookery Demonstration Room is what used to be the station platform, I jack hammered off the render on the platform wall myself and now it is on full view, a real piece of Scottish history. Original 150 year old walls can be seen in our Student Kitchens along with the same front door this gorgeous building has always had. It feels really good to leave as many features exposed as I could, it’s important for me to keep it as a public space for all to see. It’s obviously a much loved building for local people and many have come in to share their memories of it as a train station as I give them a tour.
I was lucky enough to find a true artist in my designer of the café in Ian Cameron Smith. As soon as I saw the beautiful stone walls I knew that I wanted an interior involving natural wood with a slightly industrial metal look to reflect its origins as a Station, but that was about it! I approached Ian who had come highly recommended and showed him around the site explaining my very embryonic vision of wood and metal. He immediately took me to his workshop and unveiled some of the most stunning elm wood I have ever seen. It all came from one tree that had lived its natural 300 year life not one mile from Station House. It meant that all the interior including tables, chairs, counter and shelving could be made from one tree that had lived and died a natural death a stone’s throw away. The finished result is nothing short of stunning.
With the café open in May 2017 we then had to turn our attention to the planning of the Cookery School itself. Since the first day I set foot in Station House I knew what the layout was to be. Designing and implementing that was a whole other matter. Once again Ian proved invaluable. His remit was to get a Cookery Demonstration Room to seat forty people comfortably which would be attractive enough to work well on television and also to transform into a ‘Pop Up Café’ or Function Room when needed. My vision is to have this as a multi functional space to enable as many aspects to the business as possible. From Children’s Parties to Corporate Team Building, I needed them all to be possible. On top of that, I needed a minimum of eighteen dedicated workstations so each student could have their own work surface, oven, hob and set of cooking utensils. With all of this we had to rewire, replumb, meet Building Standards and Environmental Health requirements in a building built in 1864! No pressure then…
But that is exactly what Ian did. He kept the natural wood and metal theme throughout and has developed an eye catching level of detail. Even the coat hooks are made from real railway sleeper pins! It truly is an amazing space.”
Nick Continued “So that’s the physical story behind Station House, but what about the ethos, why am I bothering to take this huge risk? Many anthropologists argue that it was cooking that made us human, cooked food enabling us to take in more calories quicker and because it needed fire it brought us together for a certain amount of time around that fire. Some argue it made us the social beings we are today. However, statistically we Brits are spending less and less time in the kitchen. We are consuming more quick to cook convenience foods and take aways. Much mainstream advertising has convinced us that we don’t have time to cook.
The more you outsource your cooking the less control you have over what you put in your family’s bodies. Supermarkets have convinced us that food should be cheap and everything available all year round. They look for long shelf lives and food that can be transported easily over taste and nutrition. Paying high wages for skilled artisans is not something they want to do. There has been a systematic approach to disconnecting the public with their food’s provenance and production. All powered by a massive marketing machine over the last thirty years.
In my opinion, it’s no coincidence that we have a rise in wheat intolerance at the same time as our breads are being fermented for much shorter periods of time (if at all!) to make them cheaper to produce, time is the enemy of profit. Dairy intolerance is on the rise as our milk is being treated at higher temperatures to increase shelf life. Scandals over the public not being informed about what type of meat is in the processed food chain? Does that come as a surprise when the price is expected to be so low? Go to a real butcher and they’ll tell you everything you need to know about the provenance of the animal you are eating.
So Station House is about doing my small part to address that imbalance. I feel, as a nation, we need to reconnect with our real love of cooking and what helped us to become the social beings we are. Cooking is fun. Allowing yourself some extra time in the kitchen rather than in front of a screen. Getting some really good simple ingredients and the family around the kitchen table to cook a proper meal. I believe that the most important cookery in Britain is what goes on in the family kitchens, this is where we pass on essential life skills to the next generation, I’d like to be a part of keeping that alive.
And that is what brings us to the opening of Station House Cookery School this May 26th / 27th 2018.
I am turning over each workstation to a local producer who is connected with Station House to do my part in supporting local producers, artisans and trades people wherever possible.
We have planned Cookery Demonstrations throughout the weekend and you can have a full tour of the school to see this beautiful building. Not to mention a lottery for someone to win a full cookery class of their choice.
Why not come along and get involved or simply to say Hi. “
If You Missed our first blog written by Nick you can catch up by clicking HERE
If you are interested in booking in for one of the amazing selection of Classes on offer at the Station House Cookery School then click HERE
Are you looking for the ultimate cookery school experience this summer?
Join Nick and the team at the Award Winning Station House Cookery School in the beautiful fishing town of Kirkcudbright, South West Scotland.
As a special introductory offer if you book one of our cookery courses between Monday 21st May & Sunday 27th May 2018 we will give you 10% off, using the code STATIONMAY18 at the checkout