Food and drink courses

Jonathan Goodall / 22 March 2016

Whether you want a change of career, improve on an old skill or learn a new one, there are food and drink courses to suit all tastes.

Now that we’re working longer it’s becoming increasingly attractive to ditch the “sensible” job for a second career in something that’s always appealed; what the Americans call an “encore” career. If you’re a dab hand in the kitchen, or knowledgeable about your wines, or maybe you’ve been inspired by Bake Off and Master Chef, then an encore in food and drink might be the right move for you.

Leiths School of Food and Wine

For anyone wishing to work as a professional chef, launch a catering business or even open their own restaurant, few courses open as many Michelin-starred doors as Leith’s renowned three-term Diploma in Food and Wine (£21,905). The course comprises the Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced Certificates, all of which can be taken separately. On its own, the 10-week Foundation Certificate costs £7,715 and includes a WSET Certificate in Wine. Based in West London, Leiths prides itself on its unstuffy approach and having its finger on the pulse of the latest foodie trends, from street food to fashionable Peruvian cuisine. / 020 8749 6400

Related: can you afford to be a mature student?

Tante Marie Culinary Academy

The UK’s longest established independent cookery school, based in Woking, Surrey, focuses on teaching practical skills in state-of-the-art surroundings. La Tante can be a strict mistress, encouraging students to develop the high levels of discipline required to cook beautiful food to the highest standards. Students are instructed by the same team of professional chef tutors, whether they’re taking the three-term Cordon Bleu Diploma (£18,450) or one-day Lifestyle courses such as Fish Workshop and Three-Course Dinner Party (both £160). / 01483 726957

Le Cordon Bleu

Answer the call of la toque blanche at the crème de la crème of cooking schools based in London’s Bloomsbury Square. The three-term Grand Diplôme (£32,950) is your passport to the Michelin stars, while those with more earthbound ambitions might consider short courses such as Butchery Workshop (£135) or Creative Vegetables (£200). For budding wine buffs there’s the Wine Essentials evening course (£553) covering classic European wines and a systematic approach to tasting them. / 020 7400 3900

River Cottage

Born again foodies of the local, ethical and seasonal persuasion could polish up their CV at River Cottage near Axminster in Devon. Hosted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s assembled team of experts, there’s an eclectic range of courses from Beekeeping (£135) and Foraging (from £192) to Advanced Gluten-Free Cookery (£195) and a one-day cookery course (from £192). River Cottage also offers courses accredited by City & Guilds, including Meat, Veg and Desserts though these are primarily aimed at those already working in food preparation. The Professional Cookery Level 3 qualification would suit those looking for a sous chef role. / 01297 630313

Related: changing career and 50 plus

Cordon Vert Cookery School

Those with aspirations of running a vegetarian venture should check out the Cordon Vert Chef’s Diploma (£1,678) at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School in Altrincham, Cheshire. The five-day course is aimed at professional chefs, “or maybe just an experienced cook wanting to get into vegetarian catering”. Students will gain a clear understanding of vegetarian catering requirements and learn to develop an imaginative approach to menu planning. / 0161 9252000

Wine and Spirit Education Trust

Learn how to swirl, sniff, slurp and spit with the professionals. From the Level 1 Award in Wines (£150) right up to the two-year Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits (£3,340), the WSET provides first-rate education for dedicated enthusiasts and those already working in the drinks business. Visit the website to find your nearest Approved Programme Provider. / 020 7089 3800

Plumpton College

Would-be winemakers and those with a hankering to work in just about any wine-related field should enrol at Plumpton. Nestled at the feet of the glorious South Downs in East Sussex, it’s the only higher education institution in England offering degrees in both winemaking and the wine business (£8,000). The college has its own 23-acre vineyard and state-of-the-art winery, and all students get to help with the harvest and selling the 25,000 bottles produced each year. / 01273 890 454

UK Bartenders Guild

Master the skills of shaking, stirring … and drinking with a one-week International Bartenders Course (£774) certified by the UK Bartenders Guild and Shaker Bar School. Students also receive a WSET Foundation Ceritificate in Spirits. Or start with a one-day Cocktail Masterclass (£149) for a practical foundation in the mechanics of mixology. The schools are in London and Birmingham. / 08707 202877


Join the craft beer revolution with a nine-week Brewlab Diploma in British Brewing Technology (£9,445) in purpose-built premises in Sunderland. Or take a two-day Introduction to Craft Brewing (£550), taught off-site at selected venues, covering the theory of brewing with essential tips for assessing your market, choosing your equipment and starting a small business. / 0191 5499450

Coffee Community

Why not retrain as a barista? Coffee Community, based at the Dark Woods Roastery in Marsden, West Yorkshire, is one of the longest-running specialists in barista training, offering consultancy to the café and coffee industry. The two-day Opening a Café: Essential Steps course (£345) provides information on start-up costs and how to develop your café concept as well as barista skills. / 01484 843141

Related: doing a degree in later life

City & Guilds

For information on a wide range of qualifications in hospitality and catering, developed in conjunction with industry experts, contact City & Guilds. Courses include Professional Cookery, Barista Skills, Patisserie and Confectionary, Bartending and even Butlering – no previous experience required. Prices on application. / 0844 5430000

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.