BIG READ: From burnt toast to chicken curry in the Men's Kitchen 

A demonstration from one of the leaders, Trevor, right. Mens' Kitchen at Pompey in The Community, Anson Road, Fratton.         Picture: Chris Moorhouse
A demonstration from one of the leaders, Trevor, right. Mens' Kitchen at Pompey in The Community, Anson Road, Fratton. Picture: Chris Moorhouse
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For a lot of men – of all ages – the prospect of venturing into the kitchen to cook a meal is rather a daunting one.

Even though it's impossible to walk into a book shop nowadays without being confronted by dozens of recipe books – all claiming to make cooking easy.

Making spicy potato wedges at Mens' Kitchen at Pompey in The Community, Anson Road, Fratton.         Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Making spicy potato wedges at Mens' Kitchen at Pompey in The Community, Anson Road, Fratton. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

In truth, many are complicated to the point they make most people want to simply heat up a microwave meal or order a takeaway instead.

But the group Men's Kitchen is looking to change all that through an inexpensive course which aims to build men's culinary confidence.

Run by Food Portsmouth, men are invited into the kitchen in a group to learn the basics of cooking meals.

Over six weeks they not only learn how to cook 12 different dishes, but work together to boost one another's confidence in the kitchen.

The courses, which have been running since 2016, cost less than £1 a week and are held at the Pompey in the Community Centre, in Anson Road, Fratton, where there is a custom-built kitchen designed specifically for cooking classes.

From young men looking for more independence to older men who want to help their partners in the kitchen, it appeals to a wide range of people.

Instructor Dave Moxey believes the course is a great way to get men who have previously avoided cooking to feel comfortable with a saucepan in hand.

He says: 'We wanted people to develop their cooking confidence, as well as their skills in the kitchen.

'It is very much about teaching the basic culinary skills – but this course is also very important for tackling social isolation, especially among some of our more elderly members.

'A lot of people are retired or moving towards independent living, so to give them this opportunity to get cooking and socialising with one another is very important.

'The youngest person we've had was 16 years old, and we've had someone in their 80s, so there is a really broad range of people that this sort of thing appeals to.'

According to Dave, the course is a good springboard for people to go home and experiment with new flavours and tastes.

He says: 'I think it is that ability to experiment, finding out what works and what doesn't, that is key to enjoying cooking.

'If it doesn't work you can change something the next time – but it is always fun to discover new tastes.

'We keep the recipes on the course fairly simple, but still use some herbs and spices to show people what can be done by adding some extra flavour.'

Participants say it has transformed mealtimes.

Paul Henty, 67, from Copnor, says: 'I have worked all my life and my wife would always cook the dinner.

'Now that I am retired I want to be able to help her in the kitchen and repay her for all those years of cooking.

'Anyone can open a jar or a tin, but here they teach you how to cook from scratch, without those.

'You learn how to do things that you would never have thought of doing before. For example, I was taught how to make quiche, which I would never have imagined cooking in the past.

'My wife probably still does a fair amount of the cooking, but it's now much closer to being 50/50, and when she does cook I am able to help her out, which makes both of us happy.'

Paul says the course instructors are a big reason why it is so successful.

He says: 'Without Dave and Trev none of this would have happened – I can't praise them enough.

'I really do believe that there should be more courses like this. It goes to show that you're never too old to learn something new.

'There is an intermediate course starting soon and quite a few of us from the beginners' course are moving on to that, simply because of how much we enjoyed it and now want to push on to learn even more.'

Another beginner graduate is Dave Topliss, 65, from Portsmouth.

He says: 'Dave and Trev make the course such good fun and everyone always looks forward to coming along.

'I really didn't have much kitchen confidence when I started the course, but now I do a lot of my own cooking at home.

'I wanted to be able to cook a decent meal for myself, and now I can do just that.

'The facilities here are absolutely incredible, thanks to Pompey in the Community. It means everyone who comes along can enjoy the cooking and work at their own pace.

'Until you actually come in here you don't even realise it exists.'

Dave says the course has allowed him to not only cook proper hot meals for himself, but, like Paul, also look at using different ingredients to create new flavours.

'I loved making the shepherd's pie during the course, and have become pretty good at making my own curry,' he explains.

'Not only am I cooking my own meals now but I am making things that I previously wouldn't even have thought of.

'It is that freedom that I really enjoy; it is a chance to make my own meals from scratch and pretty much make whatever I fancy.

'I have even gotten into the habit of making meals to last over two days.'

The next beginner courses start on May 22, September 4 and November 13.

To book a place on the course, people get in touch with Gail Baird, either by calling (023) 9289 2022 or emailing