Page written by Charlotte Myer following her 2013 internship:
Joyful!! ….. that’s what cooking is for us, and that’s what we want to make it for anyone who takes a class with us at Manna From Devon.
Cooking for us is a way of connecting with other people, from the students on our courses to the local producers that supply our ingredients. Devon’s vibrant food community is one of the things that first attracted us to this area, and we design each course to feature the freshest, healthiest products we can get our hands on.
We believe that cooking should be free of stress or anxiety, and we structure our courses to emphasise hands-on practice of good, basic culinary techniques rather than slavishly following a particular recipe. In this way we hope to impart to our students the confidence to cook intuitively, to trust their senses, and to have fun while doing so!
Most importantly, we strive to teach everyone about ingredients and flavours, so that you can feel confident adapting the dishes we make during class to whatever you have on hand. Making a meal at home needn’t be tied to a lengthy shopping list or an intimidating set of instructions. It need only be approached with a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm, and the knowledge that food tastes best when it was a joy to make.
We started Manna From Devon in 2006 after David came home from taking a bread course and said, “We should start a cooking school!” We had just finished a two-year stint running the catering at the Royal Dart Yacht Club here in Kingswear, and were busy on the market circuit selling as much bread and pudding as we could possibly produce. At the thought of changing gears toward teaching, something clicked. After all, we’d always had a passion for talking to people about food, and for helping them discover new flavours and kitchen skills. A cooking school would be perfect.
Soon afterwards, we welcomed our first set of students to our cosy, sunlit kitchen overlooking the River Dart. What started out as a handful of courses per month has grown into a varied schedule of course offerings, with something for enthusiastic home cooks at any ability level. Want to learn how to fillet fish like a pro or to make the perfect Sunday roast in your wood-fired oven? Curious about sourdough starters or the wide world of curry dishes? We’ve got something for everyone. Check out our classes here.
From the very beginning, we have been proud to feature our fabulous local producers in all of our course offerings. Come to a fish course, and you’ll prepare dishes from a box of fish that came in through Brixham market that morning, via our fishmongers Mark Lobb and Neil Walker, or on a cakes and pastry course and we’ll use organic eggs from Edward Jones at Fountain Violet Farm, just up the road.
We keep our classes small, to maximise hands-on time and to allow ample opportunity for questions and conversation, and we finish each class with a big meal around our kitchen table to enjoy the dishes we have made together, to celebrate a successful day in the kitchen, and to toast to many more just like it.
Before we started Manna From Devon, we always cooked, even if it was just to feed a group of friends from our little Baby Belling stove in our tiny flat in the Cotswolds. Often we would have to stop cooking halfway through the night because the power would go off, but the party would continue anyway. Now, we try to keep that festive spirit alive in every project that we undertake
We met at the University of London in 1982, where David studied Philosophy and Holly studied French and German. We immediately bonded over a mutual love of food, though we had no professional culinary experience at the time. Eating was a way of exploring new cultures and cuisines, and a way of building a community of people who loved food as much as we did.
After University we both spent time in the services, and embarked on a number of other adventures to distant places like Mt. Kilimanjaro, the African bush, the Southern Ocean, Germany, and even Scotland. Food, inevitably, was often at the core of those experiences.
Eventually, Holly moved back to the UK and enrolled at Leith’s Cooking School, after which she worked as a chef, demonstrator, TV presenter and food writer for, among other things, the nascent BBC Good Food website. David spent 15 years working in management consultancy before the call of the kitchen drew him back in. He is our resident bread baker and aficionado of all things leavened, having gained his expertise primarily through experimentation, practice, and that fateful bread course all those years ago.
We ourselves are forever students of the senses, and we travel as much as we possibly can to learn about new flavours, techniques, and dishes. While travelling, we try to stay off the tourist trail; more often than not our first stop is the local market where we’ve learned that if you put your camera away and start talking to people about their food (often in the one shared language of wild gesticulation), you start to learn all kinds of fantastic things. We bring these moments back with us, and distil them into dishes that we can teach to our students, hopefully passing on some small insight into a far-away culture.
When we’re not teaching cooking courses, you can find us working with other foodie clients, blogging about new adventures, or getting into all sorts of mischief with our rescue lurcher Scout.
Manna from Devon is a legal trading name for “Holly Jones Ltd”. In all instances the name “Manna from Devon” is synonymous with the company name Holly Jones Ltd.
Fir Mount House,
Higher Contour Road,
Telephone: 01803 752943
Company Registration: 4361505
Identity designed by Simon Blogg at Cherub Consultancy Ltd
What does “Manna from Devon” mean?
The name Manna from Devon refers to the biblical ‘Manna from Heaven’, the miraculous food which God caused to appear in the desert in order to sustain the Israelites on their flight from Egypt. To name our cooking school after a miraculous and heavenly food seemed as good a choice as any.
The name came to David whilst walking the dogs one afternoon. Although he claims the name came into his head as an epiphany and was therefore nothing to do with any creative genius on his part, he is, nevertheless, always very quick to mention that it was him that thought of it.
Don’t just take our word for it:
… thank you for a very enjoyable lesson in all things fishy a couple of weeks ago. You’ll be pleased to hear that all my knives are sharp and that I bought, gutted, filleted, skinned and cooked a couple of dabs on Friday!! They were delicious and Matt thinks the class was already money well spent! ….. Sally
… thank you both so much for yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed my tuition and can’t believe how much bread we made. I felt I had learned a great deal by the end of the day. I truly admire your energy and enterprise and I do hope you do well with the cookery school – you certainly deserve to. ………..Anne
…. thank you for a wonderful days cooking on Thursday. I enjoyed every single moment. I learnt so much and thanks to Holly’s wonderful expertise and teaching, I feel so much more confident buy, preparing and, of course, cooking all types of fish. The way you run the days are just perfect …. Kate