A cookery school near the village of Moy in Tyrone has just been named as one of Discover NI’s Top Ten Things to Do.
It’s owned by local mother of twins Mary-Anne Mackle, writes Barbara Collins.
Her “Wee Buns” business started on a stall at St George’s Market in Belfast. She sold preserves, home baking and cakes.
The Ballymaloe-trained chef had returned home to Northern Ireland after working at the renowned River Café in London.
Previous to her move to London she had worked for Paul Rankin at Roscoff’s.
Mary-Anne says she had always intended to come home from London and her original intention was to open a café/deli.
She says the market stall was designed to be a stop gap while she looked for premises but she ended up spending 10 years there until she had her twins three years ago.
She said: “I was self-employed so I couldn’t take maternity leave from the market for more than eight weeks or I would lose the pitch. I was already doing some midweek cookery classes at home in Moy, so I decided to expand on that and convert the garage into a state of the art facility. I really enjoy it and it allows me to work from home.”
Courses cost from £50 and include tea/coffee and scones. She says she does savoury cookery classes as well but that baking is far and away the most popular.
Mary-Anne said: “I wasn’t actually trained as a pastry chef but there has been such a resurgence in the popularity of baking. That is where the demand is.
“I like to combine traditional recipes and new flavours. Local, seasonal and organic ingredients are key.”
Each course can accommodate 10-12 people and are booked out weeks in advance. All recipes and equipment are provided and you get to take home what you make.
“My style is very informal and it’s all about having fun,” she said. “I do hands-on and demonstration classes and I cater for all levels from complete beginners to more experienced cooks. The aim is to get stuck in.
“I have lots of repeat custom. One regular comes from Monaghan to practically every course as well as lots of participants from Mid-Ulster, Derry, Belfast and Bangor. The children’s classes are really popular, and I love that. I think it’s really important to get these skills established from an early age.”