Alison Henderson

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After forays into Medicine, History and Politics Alison found her place with food whilst working at a café / deli during university summer holidays. It was a positive, creative environment where she enjoyed working with like-minded people. She went on a 3 month residential cooking course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Southern Ireland, which is situated on their own fully certified 100 acre organic farm. Here she found a place that truly reflected and developed her beliefs with regards food and cooking. So much so in fact, that after the course she stayed as café manager and chef at Ballymaloe for 13 years.

For her, the understanding of the full connection of what food meant was deeply important and working with like minded people such as Darina Allen who taught the cookery course was a great inspiration. Darina and Ballymaloe were deeply involved in the concepts of Slow Food and reviving the local food economy.

Having grown up during the troubles in Northern Ireland, Alison found that eventually many people left and when her family was no longer based in Ireland she decided that she too would move. She found herself in Edinburgh and started to work with Heritage Portfolio catering company. It was here that she got to know the local food scene and learnt a huge amount; including understanding what the crucial elements of successful and fulfilling work entailed for her. After working to help set up the Kitchen at The Secret Herb Garden and with Hickory from Musselburgh she eventually found her place at Colstoun Cookery School.

It is here that she is resident chef and runs various cookery programmes, events and courses including everything from game, kitchen suppers, bread baking, beekeeping, Indian cooking, residential course & foraging. The real focus for her when creating the courses is to inspire people to go on discovering and learning when they leave Colstoun. It is about sharing the values of using local, seasonal produce in a sustainable way and making that knowledge as fun and accessible to as many people as possible.

Being based on an old estate gives them access to an amazing body of land from which they are able to source a lot of their own produce from veg to game & foraged foods which they use in their courses and cooking, but also sell to local shops.

Part of the focus in their activities is regeneration of the estate in a sustainable way that connects and supports the local community. Alison has recently been working with ‘Lead a Bright Future’ to deliver educational programmes to children who have been excluded from school. Through cooking classes and projects over a term the children planned and prepared a celebratory dinner to which they invited people who had supported them, from the teachers to social workers and police. The progress they made was exceptional and has subsequently led Alison & Colstoun to engage further with the local school (Knox Academy) when they discovered there was no Home Economics lessons being taught to the students as there had been no HE teacher for over two years.

For Alison, food & cooking is about simplicity. Using local, seasonal produce to create food that is stunning to look at and share. She’s passionate about sharing knowledge and developing it’s potential for positive impacts on both people’s health and the environment.


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