The 14th century Castle Dairy is a very special building in many ways. Following its renovation by South Lakeland District Council in 2011, in October 2011 Kendal College took on a lease to run it as a fine dining restaurant and art gallery. Head Chef Robert Stacey now heads a team of apprentices both in the kitchen and front of house, producing and serving food to an exceptionally high standard. This special facility acts as a finishing school for the College’s apprentices. The Castle Dairy also acts as an art gallery for students who can display and sell their work.
The menus at the Castle Dairy change at least monthly and currently include dishes such as wild rocket soup, tastings of Yew Tree Farm’s Herdwick hogget and pistachio and olive oil cake. Visitors are welcome to pop in for a just a coffee or something more substantial such as lunch or an evening meal. With its log fires, antique furniture and historic ambience, the Castle Dairy also offers the ideal space for a private function.
The current kitchen at the Castle Dairy is, to say the least, tiny. It is amazing how the chef and his two catering apprentices manage to operate in such a small space and the College is therefore committed to extending the kitchen. Outline planning permission has already been granted and the College is now using its own team of a Construction Projects Manager (Ian Walmsley) and his two joinery apprentices (Jareth Cotton and Chris Graveson) to start and complete the project. Ian and his apprentices are coming to the end of manufacturing and fitting all new windows in the College’s Allen building and this has made a huge difference to the sound proofing and warmth of the building.
Steven Doherty dug the first sod of the new kitchen extension as he has had a long association with the College. Mr Doherty was the first British chef to run a three-star Michelin kitchen – La Gavroche, and he developed a cookery school to help chefs hone their skills and experience. In 1991 he joined Albert Roux’s consultancy team which opened the Grand Hotel in Amsterdam and has subsequently successfully run The Brown Horse at Winster and The Punch Bowl Inn at Crosthwaite. He is currently the chef/proprietor of Lakeland Limited’s café in their flagship store in Windermere. Lucy Tonkin recently finished her apprenticeship at the Castle Dairy and is going to work on a new gastro project headed up by Steven Doherty – Lucy will be a huge asset to his team. Once the Castle Dairy apprentices complete their apprenticeships they move on to higher profile jobs primarily within South Lakeland.
The project is being sponsored by the Savoy Trust (£20,000), EC Harris have agreed to provide the health and safety CDM services free of charge and the Waterman Group have agreed to sponsor the mechanical and electrical consultancy free of charge. Scott Hughes have also confirmed that they will give there structural engineering services free of charge. The College is actively seeking other sponsors for other elements of the project such as the oak timbers, specialist walling skills, flooring, wall coverings, lighting and the kitchen itself. In addition, the College is hosting a fund raising dinner and auction on 28 June 2013 to try and raise £20,000. If you have any auction prizes you would like to donate or would like to sponsor the project in any way, please contact the College.
The proposed kitchen extension will be treble the size of the existing one and include a proper store and office space. The kitchen will be fitted out with the latest commercial electrical induction hob in an island unit, leaving plenty of bench space for students to prepare fresh breads, patisseries and desserts as well as creating a salad and vegetable preparation area. At one end of the kitchen, the serving area will double up as a viewing table where cookery school style courses can operate. The building will be light and airy with a seasoned oak timber frame and plenty of windows to allow natural light in and enable the craft of the chef and apprentices to be seen from the outside. Externally, a seating area will be created and the volunteers from Kendal Museum have already created raised gardening beds where edible flowers, unusual herbs and vegetables are being grown.