Monday 17 December 2018

WATCH: The late Myrtle Allen reveals the secret behind her success in one of her last ever interviews

Myrtle Allen
Myrtle Allen
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

The very mention of Ballymaloe Country House hotel brings to mind numerous famous faces.

Names like Myrtle Allen, who sadly passed away yesterday, Darina and Rachel Allen and Rory O’Connell, and alumni like Clodagh McKenna. Also, the cookery school, events like Litfest and brands like Ballymaloe relish.

Ballymaloe Country House hotel, which can accommodate 60 guests for bed and breakfast and 120 in the restaurant, is now a world famous brand name.

It’s hard to imagine then that when Myrtle Allen opened her doors in 1964, she deliberately kept her business small.

She spent time honing her business instead of advertising it, and her business grew by word of mouth.

Here, in one of her final press interviews, the queen of Irish cooking tells food critics Sally and John McKenna, what her focus was when she first opened Ballymaloe Country House.

“My husband was a great, old gourmet. He loved food and he loved pictures, so he was delighted when I suggested that I might open a restaurant, and all he suggested to me was ‘yes, alright, that’s fine. I’m not going to go and buy you a place. If you’re going to do it you’ll have to do it here’,” she laughed.

“We started quite small. I didn’t over-advertise. I put a notice on the gate, and I think there was very little more I did. I think probably I might have got mention in the Cork Examiner.

“But deliberately I didn’t push it at all. I wasn’t really looking for a lot of customers. I was really concentrating, I think rightly, on getting the workings right, getting the food right, the staff right, the service right.”

“We bought our butter locally from local farms and this butter came and I don’t know whether it was always very good, or whether it was a particular delivery or a particular time that the butter was particularly good. And I said to the person who was delivering it to me, ‘you’re butter was very good last night’, and she said, ‘yes, that field always gave good butter’.”

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