Ballymaloe Cookery School
Darina and Tim Allen started teaching people how to cook in 1983. They have now prospered over the course of three decades of guiding, instructing, leading, showing, teaching, demonstrating, educating and inspiring people at the Ballymaloe cookery school, and their status as one of the world's outstanding and singular cookery schools is secure. But they have won that security by an interesting route: they have kept changing, kept adapting, updating, renovating their imaginations and their creativity. Mrs Allen, in particular, is no longer just a cookery teacher: she is an advocate, a provocateur, a philosopher of the world of food.
She writes of the school that “at heart it remains the same” as thirty years ago, but this is only partly true. What is different today is that what was once taken for granted – cook simply and respectfully with superb ingredients – is now made utterly explicit via their methodology. The Ballymaloe message has become broader, a bulwark against, and an antidote to, the blandness of mass-produced food that dominates the world. Time has made the Ballymaloe message more pertinent, and the school has expanded its philosophical understanding – and its political understanding – of what great food means, what great food achieves, of how great food defines who we are and how we live. Mrs Allen is not just as hungry as ever – for experience, for the joy of communicating that which one is passionate about – she is hungrier than ever.
That hunger led her to establish the Ballymaloe Litfest in 2013, and from the outset the roll call of speakers and presenters has been blue chip, top-of-the-range. It's another thrilling and oblique move by the school.
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