About Us

The Secret Sauce at The Cookhouse

As with all great things, what goes in tends to define the success of the finished product. Like each of our dishes, only the finest ingredients have gone into our history – and the outcome is a gourmet selection of home-cooked prepared meals, frozen for your convenience.

The Cookhouse Difference

No added preservatives, flavourants, colourants, or stabilizers – real food

No mass production – the care and attention to detail of artisanal food

Gourmet quality at an affordable price

Top ingredients brought to life in the hands of great chefs and food lovers


The Cookhouse Story


When it comes to making nutritious, tasty, and lovingly-prepared ready-made meals, The Cookhouse Story followed a simple, unique recipe.


A history that includes an award-winning gourmet restaurant

A supportive family

A woman who saw a need for nutritious, easy-to-prepare, home-cooked meals

Four locations in KZN


Tanya and Jonty Nicolson started their foodie adventure over 15 years ago. Special occasions were celebrated over great food whilst normal nights were turned into special occasions. The first venture of their own was the award-winning country gourmet bistro, Nicolson’s, at Garlington Estate in Hilton.

In 2012, Tanya, a brand new mum at that stage, saw a gap in the market for easy-to-heat, ready-made meals that are – first and foremost – delicious and so The Cookhouse was born. Whilst running Nicolson’s, they gave life to Tanya’s original concept and opened The Cookhouse – with the invaluable help of Tanya’s dad and step mum, Gary and Debbie Baleson.

Since then, they have produced food that’s goodness-on-the-go for selected KZN communities, with stores currently located in Howick, Hilton, Athlone, and Gillitts. This scrumptious menu is readily available in each store, so you can stop in and shop for home-cooked, nutritious food you will really enjoy!

Chef’s Notes

The rich history and diversity of ingredients is something you need to taste for yourself, with a dish to delight every palate. Infused with a gourmet past and a lifelong love of food, pop in to The Cookhouse to discover the delights of deliciously easy dining in the comfort of your own home.

The Cookhouse Family

Tanya Nicolson

“The Ideas Girl”

There I stood, in the middle of our kitchen, with my 3-week old baby in my arms, freaking out as to how on earth I was possibly going to make dinner. That’s when it hit me: this gaping hole in the market for excellent home-cooking…in a box.
I knew what our next food adventure would be. I wanted us to produce food that I would love to eat, food that I’d be happy to serve my family. I wanted other working mums to have this – the ease of convenience food, without the stigma of the mass-produced options out there.
Of course, I had no idea how I was actually going to make this into a viable business on its own. I already had the awesome chef in Jonty and years of experience in the food game with him. But, it was when my Dad said to me, “If you’re going to do this, I’m in. Let’s do this properly”, that The Cookhouse journey really began.
My initial role as “the ideas girl” evolved quickly. I now run the production, marketing, and sales training – and I’m learning every day. I am so proud of what we have created: good, wholesome food you can trust. The Cookhouse meals have helped, comforted, nourished, and brought smiles to the faces of many different diners in so many more spheres than I could ever have imagined.

Jonty Nicolson

“The Secret Ingredient”

Originally trained by the well-renowned chef – his uncle – Richard Poynton, Jonty’s food journey has subsequently led him all over the world. As a couple, we have always worked closely together throughout our foodie career.
When The Cookhouse began, the combination of our brainstormed dishes and Jonty’s specialised skills resulted in a menu that was delicious without being pretentious. The dishes often involve well-known, old favourites, but made well – to a chef’s standards.
For Jonty, flavour always comes first, whether it’s high-end cuisine or food for home. This ethos is what has made The Cookhouse food the success it is today. Although he now works in other spheres of the culinary arts, while I run The Cookhouse with Gary and Debbie, Jonty’s imprint will remain ensconced in the flavours that embody what The Cookhouse stands for – great food

Gary Baleson

“The Systems Master”

“Running the business” is too simple a phrase to afford to this man. At 6am every morning, he is already at The Cookhouse production branch in Howick.
Implementing and maintaining systems is his game. He likes his businesses to “run like a well-oiled machine,” he always says – and the only way to do this is by “sticking to the systems”.
Counting every grain of salt is something he and his wife, Debbie, are brilliant at doing. It is this attention to detail that has been a major contributor to the success and smooth running of operations at The Cookhouse.
Gary gets an extraordinary number of tasks done in one work day. The list for how he runs this business is simply never-ending – and he is always there with a system to meet every need.

Debbie Baleson

“Professional Taster”

When folks ask my stepmum what she does at The Cookhouse, the answer she always gives in jest is, “I’m the professional taster!” As you can probably tell, Debbie’s food background is one that centres around the pure enjoyment of food. While not a fan of cooking itself, Debbie loves the tasting!
In fact, beyond the precision of her palate, Debbie is an invaluable asset to our family business. Her immaculate attention to detail and somewhat worrying love for list-making means Debbie simply gets the job done. From customer relations and sales to admin and permits, legalities, hygiene and everything in between, Debbie deals with the most intricate details – the things that would make my brain do a back flip. Debbie is a force to be reckoned with and is loved by our customers too.

Bastian Nicolson

“The Reason”

Bas inspired the entire concept for The Cookhouse. He is all my reasons. As a new mother daunted at the idea of cooking a meal at the end of a long day, that is where it started, but Bastian’s role in the success of The Cookhouse can be felt every day. He gives me perspective, he inspires strength even during the toughest times, and I am in constant awe of his incredible heart.
The Cookhouse is what it is today because of the calm and loving support of this special young man, who believes so firmly in the value of family. This distinct sense of family translates into dishes handmade with care and attention – meals you can take home to your families for delicious memories around the dinner table, on holiday, or as a gift for someone special.