The cooking partners: GDHA and WI

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The GDHA Group, the Women’s Institute and TV chef Bryan Turner joined forces to promote English cooking heritage. Anna Ryland reports.

The GDHA couldn’t have found better partners to promote its ‘Made in Britain’ cooking appliances and its associations with Britain’s culinary heritage than the Women’s Institute and Bryan Turner, the popular TV chef known for promoting no-nonsense English cuisine.

The Women’s Institute (WI) was formed in 1915 in order to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then its aims have broadened and it is now the largest women’s organisation in the UK with 205,000 members in 6,500 centres. The WI is working hard to modernise its image to reflect the wide range of its national and international initiatives. Although its November Jam Making Festival still attracts a lot of attention, the WI has a wider goal of “getting people back to the kitchen” to explore the best of the country’s culinary traditions.

In Denman College in Marcham, near Oxford, the WI offers a variety of lifestyle courses, including cooking. The college’s large cookery school has been equipped entirely by GDHA and this is where Bryan Turner conducts some of his demonstrations.

The GDHA partnership with the Women’s Institute began four years ago. Denver Hewlett, chief executive of GDHA, comments: “We realised that there was a natural synergy between the two organisations and decided to help them to transform the somewhat outdated cooking facility into a state-of-the-art cookery school.

“The WI teaches people to cook the best of British food at the time when a growing number of people cannot cook. If we don’t have more people cooking we won’t sell any cookers. It is as simple as that.”

Mr Hewlett, who admits to being a passionate amateur chef himself, adds: “We work well together. With the help of the WI magazine, WI Life, distributed to WI members, we promote Bryan Turner’s Days, our various product offers and seasonal recipes. We also have a very good relationship with Bryan Turner; both him and us are interested in promoting cooking and fostering the best English traditions in this field.”

Mr Hewlett also commented on the rationale behind GDHA’s ‘Made in Britain’ ethos: “There are hardly any manufacturers of domestic appliances left in the UK. We have decided to make a difference with our manufacturing facilities in Prescot. By now 85% of our cooking products are made in Britain. We also felt that we know the domestic customers well and could adopt a distinctive styling which reflects British cooking heritage. We wished this to be associated with good quality products and excellent after-sales support. To achieve this we employ nearly 200 engineers and 350 people in our after-sales business which we call customer care since it starts before the customer makes a decision to purchase our appliances and continues throughout the lifespan of the product. We also work with a local supply chain which makes the whole process very flexible and fast.”

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