Tuesday 17 October 2017

Darina Allen: 'Millennials want to take control over the food they eat'

Celebrity chef Darina Allen
Celebrity chef Darina Allen

Laura Lynott

Young people are increasingly looking to develop new skills and take control of growing the food they eat, says top chef Darina Allen.

Ms Allen (67) said she could not keep up with the demand from young professionals looking to not only cook but grow their own produce.

Her six-week Sustainable Food Programme at the prestigious Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Co Cork, has been oversubscribed and a waiting list has had to be established.

Ms Allen, who will be one of the many famous faces to appear at Taste of Dublin in the Iveagh Gardens, between June 15 and 18, said many of the people she teaches mistrust big business and multinationals when it comes to food production.

"Millennials in particular are actually questioning what's going on in the world and they want to take control over the food they eat," Ms Allen told the Irish Independent.

"They haven't learned to cook or grow anything until now, but they don't trust governments, multinational food companies, food safety authorities, doctors, or nutritionists to make their nutritional choices any more.

"I've had a group up this morning at 7.30am learning to milk cows, how to make cheese and butter, while others are in the bread shed, making brown yeast bread and sourdough.

"They've come from these high-flying jobs and they're learning how to keep chickens, how to plant, to raise bread."

Ms Allen established the cookery school in 1983 as a retreat for those wishing to learn new skills.

"They have only been here for three or four days and are saying it's life-changing," she said.

"They will go back to being bankers and architects, but I think they'll take a piece of this experience back with them.

"You see, you can make a tonne of money, but it's not the same as sowing your own seed for months, cooking it and eating it, knowing that you produced this food.

"That's the sweetest tasting food there is, and you know exactly where it came from."

The chef, who has written 10 books and presented six TV shows, has established an urban garden within the grounds of Ballymaloe.

It is a modest enough patch of land to help those living in busy urban centres learn how they can grow their own vegetables in their gardens or from apartment balconies.

"I'm showing them how to grow enough food for a family of four from a small garden," Ms Allen said.

"They'll grow spuds, gooseberries, blackcurrants - it's adorable, and this is a dream I've had for around 15 years; to show people how to change their lifestyles for the better.

"People want to take back control and know how their food is produced."

The chef also hopes that as more people opt to grow their own food, they will value farm-supplied vegetables.

"The big supermarkets are selling carrots for around 30 cents. People have to know that's wrong," she said.

"Carrots are in the ground for three months, and you can imagine how lowly the farmer must be paid if the supermarket sells their produce at that price."

Darina will be showing off her cooking expertise at Taste this Saturday at Food for Thought, in association with Regina Wish, at 1pm and also at the Electrolux Taste Theatre from 3.30pm. For more information, visit dublin.tastefestivals.com

Irish Independent

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