From the curious to those hoping to start a new career Ballymaloe Cookery School is a buzzing hive of enthusiasm, education, and most importantly delicious food

The kitchen is abuzz. Make that kitchens… with an ‘s’.

Ballymaloe has three expansive commercial kitchens. And those are just the ones dedicated to its students.

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They also have kitchens dedicated to baking fresh bread and meals served in their café. Ireland’s premier international cooking school is always abuzz. And there is always a flurry of chefs dashing about in the throws of learning.

Daily demonstrations at Ballymaloe

Daily demonstrations at Ballymaloe

A group of students in one area is learning how to divvy up bread dough for the perfect size for dinner rolls. Across the way, they are learning the finer points of checking to see if a chicken is done cooking. From prep work like chopping and sautéing to the finer points of a perfect Victoria sponge, these students learn it all in a 12-week course at Ballymaloe.

Students from around the world seek out these kitchens tucked away in rural Ireland between Waterford and Cork. Much of that is because of owner Darina Allen, who is Ireland’s most famous celebrity Chef and has been called the Julia Child of Ireland. She has more than 10 cookbooks, makes routine television and radio appearances and runs Ballymaloe Cookery School and Organic Farm. She is dedicated to the concepts of organic food, sustainability, and slow cooking.

“You have to have the best produce and fresh ingredients, and you have to have patience in putting them together,” she tells me over a cup of coffee and a scone that students prepared just an hour earlier.

Better butter is always fresh!

Better butter is always fresh!

Those same students learn to milk the farm’s small herd of cows, turn that fresh milk into butter, yogurt, and cheese; how to ferment and all of the lessons in those kitchens we already talked about.

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“We take 50 students at a time, and we run that course 3 times a year. But you can also sign up for shorter lessons and you can even drop in and take part in an afternoon session,” Allen says.

Listen in on the kitchen banter at Ballymaloe, here.

Students rotate through different instructors over the time they are here. They stay on the ground of this historic ranch house and working farm. And they have to learn how to tell the difference between the herbs that grow here and the different eggs laid by the different chickens about the place before they go.

Fresh eggs are a must in organic cooking.

Fresh eggs are a must in organic cooking.

“This is such a great school,” says Debra Shoal, one of many instructors here. “I mean I know I work here but I also took this course. I had heard so much about it I wanted to see what they did. It’s fabulous! So I took the course and then I became an instructor.”

Students come from around the world, but many from the United States and Europe. Henry Wagner is from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “I have worked in restaurants but I want to really learn the business so that I can be a chef and maybe someday open my own restaurant,” he tells me just before dives into the process of making gravy.

On cooking days here, class projects become lunch.

On cooking days here, class projects become lunch.

Richard Yarrow has some cool plans he tells me about as he fillets a fish. He’s from Scotland. “I already play the bagpipes and I love to cook. So I want to become a private chef to get experience and then eventually start up a place of my own. I already have the name, Piping Hot. I'll make the food and pipe it out. And I need to know everything they are teaching us here.”

You can find more information on Ballymaloe at

Erin Meehan Breen is a freelance writer based in Galway. You can find her other work at

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