A Cook’s Book – Stella West-Harling

Stella West Harling, the founder of the Ashburton Cookery School, Dartmoor champion and food guru has just published a new book – A Cook’s Story –  it is a great culinary autobiography. It talks of her life starting off in the Lake District and recounts her journey which culminates in Devon, The Ashburton Cookery School and Home Farm Cafe, sprinkled amongst the story are over 100 recipes and Stella’s views on good food. It is a great book and would make an excellent Christmas present if you are still looking for one. To be honest it is a must have book either way. It is available at lots of local bookshops and of course at Home Farm Cafe.

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I first met Stella West-Harling a few years ago when my colleague Gus Fergusson (the now retired Head Ranger for South Dartmoor) introduced me to her and encouraged me to think about discussing whether we might form some type of partnership to bring a cafe to Parke.

At the time I was running Castle Drogo as well as the rest of National Trust Dartmoor and although we really wanted to open a cafe at the rapidly ’emerging’ Parke I couldn’t see how we could find the capacity to set up and run a new cafe. I was already responsible through my teams for cafes at Castle Drogo, Lydford Gorge and Finch Foundry and to be honest my main preoccupations were the Castle Drogo ‘building project’ and creation of new cycle trails at Plymbridge.

So I met up with Stella and Gus to discuss Parke …….. Stella, to be honest is rather formidable and I came away from the meeting thinking she thought I was a bit of a corporate twurp – I had spent most of the meeting spluttering at Stella’s view of the world and in particular the part the National Trust played in it!

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Nevertheless I liked her a lot and saw that she had the skills, experience and backing to enable us to jointly achieve what we both wanted – a first class cafe at Parke which people would love and an offer which would drive new visitors to our lovely but then ‘sleeping giant’ property. The rest is now history and it has worked brilliantly – see here.

IMG_2935All the NT staff love Home Farm cafe along with the team who work there and indeed we even had our Christmas lunch there yesterday.

IMG_2934I see at lot of Stella these days as we are both passionate promoters of Dartmoor – a really important job with a lot of work still to do