11 May Meet the cooking teacher with bags of talent
Meet the cooking teacher with bags of talent
When the pandemic closed the world down, our ovens fired up as the nation turned to baking as a calming antidote to the chaos.
While beginners baked banana bread, more confident cooks took their skills to a whole new level – and Martine Head (pictured) from Portchester took that further still by sharing her baking know-how with others.
Already a fully qualified food teacher at a secondary school in Eastleigh, Martine decided to continue teaching during lockdown by creating online cooking videos with recipe cards for children who wanted to get creative in the kitchen.
Soon, her Facebook friends started asking if she could share her videos so they could follow the recipes with their children at home.
“They became incredibly popular,” says Martine. “Then I realised some people who were isolating couldn’t get hold of ingredients, so I started weighing out the ingredients to make bags for delivery or collection and raise money for the NHS at the same time.
“The baking bags held all the ingredients the cooks would need, plus a recipe card to follow. There was also a QR code on the card which took people straight to the video once they scanned it.
“That’s where The Bake Bag name came from – they gave people a break and something fun to do.
“I found people particularly loved my scone recipes. I did blueberry and lemon, cheese and sweetcorn – I wanted to do different flavours and they became really popular.
“I did breads too: focaccia and flatbreads – that was the first video I did. I also did olive and rosemary knots, muffins, biscuits, fudge cake and, of course, banana bread, the bake of lockdown!”
Martine found demand continued even after lockdown ended. Not one to shy away from a challenge, the busy mum of five-year-old Vinnie then decided to add holiday clubs to her repertoire.
“I found that if your child doesn’t like sports but does like baking and cooking there isn’t anything out there for them.
“It’s the same if you’re an adult and you want to learn to cook, say, a particular type of bread; you have to go to a really expensive cooking school, which can cost several hundred pounds.
“So, I contacted the local schools and asked if they rented their food rooms out.
“Boundary Oak came back to me, and I took it from there – it’s what I do every day anyway; I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before.
“From there, people asked if I would do classes for parents and toddlers, so I now run Stay Play and Bake classes at Portchester Parish Hall every Friday morning. We make something different every week.
“I’m starting to branch out into birthday parties and cupcake decorating, but I’m still teaching Monday to Thursday and have a five-year-old so it’s hard to fit in everything that I want to do!”
Martine’s Stay Play and Bake classes are now so popular, she has expanded across the borough to Stubbington, Lee-on-Solent and other local areas, and she has got so busy she is giving up traditional teaching in July.
Adult cooking classes have also proved popular, with Martine guiding her students three-course meal plans, including Italian, Spanish, Thai, vegan and seasonal themes.
“I have spent years in the food industry and cooked hundreds – thousands – of recipes over the past 12 years as a food teacher. I have leant on all of that.
“I have really enjoyed the bread making and focusing on that, but really, it’s just about teaching people. I love my subject, I love food. I have a great time in the evenings teaching 20 adults. I spend time with them, chat to them, get to meet lots of new people. It’s lovely.
“At home, I cook with my son, Vinnie – he loves cracking eggs! He’s really getting into decorating cookies. I’m constantly baking so he sees what I’m doing, just like I did with my mum and my nan.
“I grew up surrounded by cooking – my mum would always make my birthday cakes. She had this buttercream cake book, and I would pick something from there. She could make anything. I have very fond memories of birthday cakes made my mum.
“My favourite was the princess one; she made turrets out of ice cream cones. It was amazing. I don’t have as much patience as that. Rustic is more my style!
“I’m very excited about it all – it’s so unexpected for something so positive to come out of such a troubled time.
“I’m hoping to expand even further and recruit some of my ex-food colleagues so I can take classes out to even more areas. The dream is to franchise it, but we’ll have to see how it goes over the next five years.
“There’s such a gap for it, such a need for people of any age to learn how to cook and have fun. It’s so lovely on a Friday to have a couple of friends getting stuck in, talking while they’re making, catching up, learning. I love it.
“It’s quite mindful too, people get in the zone and find it very relaxing. People reconnected with the simpler things through lockdown, and they love it.
“Had that not happened I’d still be teaching but this is too good an opportunity to miss. I need to give this is a go. Life’s too short to say no!”
The Bake Bag runs adult cooking classes, children’s Stay Play and Bake sessions, provides bakes for the Seahorse Coffee Bar at Portchester Castle, and also offers treat boxes to order. Find out more below!