Starting Up with Sophie Grigson @ The Story Museum

The past few weeks have all been a bit of a blur. I can’t believe that Halloween has come and gone, and that Christmas is lurking just around the corner.

That long warm summer extension has finally expired; autumn is already wintery and cold. And soup, glorious, glorious soup is now a daily fixture in my life. My missing weeks have been stolen by The Story Museum.

Of course, children’s stories and grown-ups’ too, are full of thieves, good and bad. Remember the 40 thieves in the tale of Ali Baba? Or Cornelia Funke’s romantic Thief Lord, a favourite of mine back when I had time to read books.

But no-one warned me that a gang of hard-working time thieves lived in the back streets of central Oxford. It all began with a chance email.

For two years now Sophie’s Cookery School (, which I run with my friends and colleagues, Amelia Earl and Bethan Rees, has been trying to crack the children’s cookery classes conundrum.

Parents asked for classes again and again, we scheduled them at half term and holidays and then we cancelled them because almost no-one booked.

The advent of The Story Museum with its delicious playfulness, offered a brilliant new possibility. Would they let us run children’s classes there?

We met with joint directors Kim and Tish, and everything fell into place when they asked us a question: would we like to hold our classes here, and run the café at the same time?

We attempted to look as cool and business-like as we could, but I’m not sure we fooled anyone – we were as excited as children by the idea.

As we left, Bethan said what we were all thinking: ‘I think that’s my dream job!’ From then on it’s been a fabulously sweet and sugary whirl, as we’ve worked up our ideas for a myriad playful cakes and cookies (including some amazing gluten-free cakes). We’ve searched for names in the pages of children’s books – Lemony Snicket’s Very Lemony Cookies, and Bruce Bogtrotter’s Sensational Chocolate Cake, among others.

And less glamorous, but equally important, we’ve ploughed through reams of health and safety and hygiene manuals to make sure we’re getting the back room basics right. But it’s not all sugar and sweetness.

The daily soup with freshly baked bread or Welsh Rarebit has become a major fixture, the first step in our plans to offer a proper lunch menu complete with salads, and a cracking selection of open sandwiches. That all lies ahead.

So far, it’s going even better than we’d hoped.

Our first Saturday morning cookery class for children took place last weekend, and it was terrific – great kids, huge fun (and no chopped-off fingers!) – more are planned, so take a look at the website. We’re feeling so at home now in The Story Museum that we are holding an official launch day on Friday, November 21.

Drop by during the Christmas Light Festival to say hello.

The challenge now is to raise awareness of where we are and what we do – and that’s where you come in.

You are cordially invited to visit the café and see the range of cakes, soups, sandwiches and salads we have on offer.

Stuck for something to do on a lunch break? Soup and a Story takes place every Friday at 12.30pm: listen to bite-sized stories read aloud as you munch your lunch. Looking for that perfect place to go for a tea-time treat?

The staff of the museum all recommend the cake, and we can’t wait for you to try it.

In the meantime, if you see a strange woman wandering the town centre offering free samples of soup or cake, don’t worry…it’s just me!

Sophie’s Kitchen opens on November 21 at The Story Museum, Pembroke Street, Oxford. Cookery classes for ages 8-12 take place every 
Saturday at 11.30am, see ‘Soup and a Story’ is every Friday at 12.30pm.

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