Founded in 1983 by Darina Allen and her brother Rory O'Connell, Ballymaloe Cookery School has grown to become one of the most prestigious cookery schools in the world with a far-reaching network of students and alumni.
The Ballymaloe Story as a whole is a long and fascinating one, really beginning when Myrtle Allen opened a restaurant in her own country house around the time that Darina was a young student in Dublin considering her path in life. Harbouring a desire to cook with fresh, seasonal ingredients and not relishing the male-dominated restaurant landscape of the time, Darina was looking for something different. Following the advice of one of her tutors, she sought out Myrtle Allen who was making a name for herself by designing her daily menu based on the fresh produce available in the locality each day. Myrtle's ethos was simple yet ahead of its time: local produce, in season, full of flavour and simply cooked. This was what Darina had been searching for.
The very first person Darina met on her first day at Ballymaloe House was Myrtle and Ivan Allen's son, Timmy; and it wasn't long before they fell in love. They married in 1970 and moved to Kinoith, the beautiful regency house situated on the grounds of what is now Ballymaloe Cookery School.
This house was originally inhabited by The Strangmans, a Quaker family, who bequeathed the house to Ivan and Myrtle Allen. Tim and Darina had a considerable task ahead of them to restore the wonderful gardens surrounding their new home. While working hard to realise that particular project, they made their living running a busy farm shop next to the greenhouses. During the Winter, however, needing something to keep her busy, Darina assisted Myrtle giving cooking classes at Ballymaloe House.
Her imagination fired, she decided to try her hand at teaching her own classes out of her home at Kinoith, and so Ballymaloe Cookery School was born.
Today, Ballymaloe Cookery School regularly ranks highly on various listings of the world's Top 10 Cookery Schools, such as The Guardian and Forbes. We believe that our food philosophy and teaching methods are fully appreciated by our students and visitors alike. They come expecting a practical culinary education, and they leave with so much more! We are the only cookery school in the world situated on our own extensive, organically certified farm; and our students learn not only to cook, but to work in harmony with the landscape around them, to tune in to the seasons and cook with passion. It is a testament to what we do here that our students and alumni keep coming back to visit, reluctant to cut the chord. We are immensely proud of our worldwide 'family' of past students, many of whom have gone on to open their own cookery schools and food enterprises inspired by their time spent with us.
In September 2013, Ballymaloe Cookery School celebrated its 30 year anniversary. In honour of a successful 30 years and countless happy memories, an al-fresco rustic themed Celebration Feast was held on the grounds of the cookery school with invitations issued to anyone associated with the school's 30 year history. Many alumni kindly sent us in their photos and fondest memories by email, and we were delighted to welcome many others to the event itself.
In 2023 Ballymaloe Cookery School will celebrate its 40 year anniversary.