Food, fire and the great outdoors are the order of the day at Worship Worth Experiences, as Katy Edgington finds out from co-founder Alison Worship
Originally from Yorkshire, Alison Worship moved to Staffordshire in 2014 to take up a teaching position in Rugeley. After several years in a secondary school, she now runs cooking classes and creates bespoke outdoor cooking experiences and events for guests of all ages and from all walks of life.
A qualified food technology teacher, Alison runs Worship Worth Experiences alongside her husband Tim from their family home in Canwell. The business combines her passion for teaching and vast experience within the catering industry with his job as a tree surgeon and their shared love of food and the outdoors.
“I’ve worked in food from the word go,” says Alison. “I’ve worked in fast food restaurants and coffee shops – Costa, Starbucks, Caffè Nero – and in contract catering for Sodexo. I worked in catering for the department stores Allders and House of Fraser, and also ran catering on motorway services.”
Having always enjoyed training staff in her corporate roles, in her mid-30s Alison headed back to university to retrain as a teacher. A food technology PGCE was the obvious choice, but after having her son, full-time teaching was no longer right for her. Tim suggested going self-employed and they landed on the idea of opening a cookery school. Tim built the outdoor kitchen and almost every wooden building on their grounds using locally sourced wood. The wood burned on-site is from trees he’s felled.
Cooking with confidence
For Alison, it’s important to get children cooking from an early age and to teach them where their food comes from. She offers cooking lessons for ages three to 16, with regular Saturday morning classes in term time and seasonal one-off sessions during school holidays. Children can cook along in the outdoor kitchen and learn everything from social skills and independence to time planning, as well as gaining kitchen confidence.
“So many times when I was teaching I would show children vegetables or ask them where this meat came from and they genuinely wouldn’t have a clue,” says Alison. “That’s a real worry. It’s a cycle; if you come from a home where your parents don’t cook, you are potentially less likely to cook.
“People make unhealthy choices thinking it’s easier, but cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated. I find that children are much more likely to try something if they’ve made it themselves. They might not eat all of it, but they will try it. It inspires them to want to go and do more. The cooking school helps the parents, too. They come with their child and they learn as well.”
There’s a healthy mix of sweet and savoury recipes in Alison’s store cupboard. One week the children will be making chicken fajitas, the next lemon and honey flapjacks, and the week after piri-piri burgers and roast vegetables.
“I always try to keep it fresh and varied, and look at skill sets, so the kids are building their knowledge but also their confidence,” says Alison. “Confidence can be a barrier for parents, too – if you’re not confident in the kitchen why would you entertain doing it with your child? Then also there’s the mess and the fact that your child doesn’t listen to you – mine doesn’t anyway!
“People might think they can’t go to cooking school because it’s fancy, but it’s not. What we make is good, nutritious food that you can do at home. I’m not a chef and I don’t pretend to be – it’s about teaching people how to cook, do it their way, and develop their skills. We keep it as simple as possible.”
Let’s go outside
As an educator trained to teach inside, Alison says the difference in the children working outside is amazing to see. In her eyes, the sterility and discipline of the classroom affects how children learn and what they do.
“I think learning outdoors will be a huge part in the next chapter of education,” she adds. “University of Birmingham sent some PGCE students here to experience outdoor learning, and there is definitely already a big move towards using outdoor settings. Everyone loves being in the fresh air. The kids turn up in their wellies, do some cooking, go and play in the woodland, then their food is ready. It’s much more relaxed and social, and the parents seem less stressed as well.”
As well as getting children cooking outside school, Alison is working alongside Streethay Primary School to deliver lessons on diet, nutrition and healthy eating along with practical cooking from pre-school up to KS4. And for those who’ve chosen to educate their children themselves, she runs a home education group on Wednesday mornings. There are even plans in the pipeline to tutor GCSE Food Technology for older group members in September.
“It is a different kind of teaching, which is what I love,” Alison says. “Now, I’m teaching on so many different levels, from the little ones to more mature people to different areas of the community. It’s a different knowledge set for each of those groups, which you don’t use as a teacher in a school. I love the freshness of meeting lots of people and hopefully making a difference.”
Another important part of this is getting out and about in the community at events hosted by Nurture Community CIC, where Alison shares what she knows about food – including budgeting, meal planning and cooking skills – with people who might not necessarily come to the cookery school.
Everyone is welcome
All ages and abilities are welcome at Worship Worth Experiences, where there are plenty of opportunities for families and friends to make, eat, and share food around the pizza oven, the barbecue, and the campfire.
“The shared experience and the social aspect is important – and I think we’ve lost some of that, sitting in front of the TV eating our food,” Alison remarks. “Our family campfire cooking session is a good example. We do it out in the woodland and we’ll make a meal over the fire – usually a casserole, bread and potatoes. We show you how to manage the fire, so if you go camping or even just like being around a fire you’ve got those skills.”
Their outdoor wood-fired pizza classes have been popular, even throughout the winter months. Family sessions run every other month on Saturdays, but the couple also host evening sessions for adults and days out for corporate groups. You’ll have the chance to make your own dough, choose your own toppings, create your pizza and bake it in the oven before tucking in.
At regular ‘School of BBQ’ days, you can learn the basics about wood, fuel, types of barbecue and cook times. Alison shares different techniques plus insider knowledge on rubs and marinades and how to apply them to meats, vegetables and fish. Then you make your own lunch on the barbecue.
“People tend to either overcook or undercook food on the barbecue, so they’re scared and just stick to burgers and sausages,” she says. “This is an opportunity to up your game, and it’s a real experience in the outdoor kitchen.”
Party or relax!
And if all that’s whetted your appetite, you might be interested to know that Alison and Tim also cater for bespoke events like birthday and engagement parties. They even have their own Airbnb on-site – the Woodcutter’s Rest – a log cabin built by Tim with a private patio and hot tub where you can combine your stay with a wood-fired pizza experience or the family campfire cooking, for example.
“People want experiences,” Alison says. “Because of Covid, they’re looking for the alternative, and we very much are that. We’re out there in all weathers. You’re having such a good time that you don’t really feel it.
“What we do is not just about the cooking – it’s about the experience, the vibe, where we are and the woodland, and our passion for what we do. We just want to share that and teach!”
Find out more and find links to book at www.worshipworthexperiences.co.uk