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Thu 31 March, 2011

Stella West-HarlingAshburton Cookery School founder is one of the UK’s top 100 most influential food entrepreneurs

The founder and C.E.O. of Ashburton Cookery School in Devon, Stella West-Harling, has been recognised as one of the UK’s Top 100 most influential women in the hospitality, leisure travel and tourism industries.

Stella, who was a pioneer of the organic food movement in Devon, is included in the Women 1st Top 100 list which was unveiled at a prestigious ceremony at the Savoy Hotel in London last night (March 31st). Stella is included in a list  which also marks the achievements of leading food entrepreneurs such as Delia Smith, Prue Leith, Nigella Lawson, Ruth Rogers and Jill Stein.

Stella was nominated for the leading role which she has played in galvanising the different sectors of the Dartmoor food and drink industry by promoting good quality, locally-sourced food and its importance for a healthy lifestyle.   She was also commended for her work in developing innovative training programmes at Ashburton Cookery School, as well as for her involvement in promoting local food festivals on Dartmoor.

For the past 20 years, Stella has been instrumental in developing a sustainable food policy for Dartmoor and she also opened one of the first organic restaurants in the UK, before setting up the award winning Ashburton Cookery School in 1992.  As the Chairman of Dartmoor Food and Drink, Stella continues to champion local and sustainable food as well as writing and broadcasting about food issues.

Stella says that she was delighted to be included in such a prestigious list of leading chefs, food writers and entrepreneurs: “I am very pleased to be included in the list alongside high profile women who have achieved so much in raising standards within the food industry. It has been very rewarding and inspiring to work with so many different parts of the local community in Devon - from farmers, food producers, women in rural enterprise, schools and local health services – and to champion the cause for healthy and sustainable food.”

In 2008, Ashburton Cookery School became the regional training centre for Devon and Cornwall for the School Food Trust, following a successful bid by   Stella, delivering inspirational training courses to many of the regions School Cooks.  In addition the Cookery School works with the Princes Trust to motivate disadvantaged youths to look at a career in catering.

Stella says that the Women 1st nomination recognises the importance of such work with young people and she adds that it is vital that the next generation of consumers understand the need for good healthy and local food: “When I started out, the organic food movement was regarded as cranky or a bit alternative, but now it is highly regarded.  Ashburton Cookery School plays a great part in promoting the values of sustainable and high quality, locally-sourced food as well as in raising training standards for young people who want to be involved in the food industry.”

* The Women 1st Top 100 and Shine Awards are organised by People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, leisure and tourism.

For  further information about Ashburton Cookery School visit

Note to Editors:
Ashburton Cookery School is an award winning cookery school based at Ashburton close to the Dartmoor National Park in Devon. It offers more than 40 cookery courses to people from beginners to more experienced cooks. The courses are delivered by a team of 6 chef tutors in state of the art kitchens at the centre located in Ashburton.

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