When Dervilla O’Flynn got a summer job at Ballymaloe’s farm shop, little did she imagine that one day she would end up as a chef.
The first thing I was shown was by Rory O’Connell (the founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School),” she says. “He showed me how to put garlic and rosemary in a leg of lamb and that really sealed the deal for me.”
Dervilla, a Dubliner, then completed the cooking course in Ballymaloe and taught there for a few years with Darina Allen.
“It was the best job and the toughest job I’ve ever had,” she says. “Even 30 years ago, Darina always had her finger on the pulse of global events.
“Then I worked in various places before returning here (to Ballymaloe House, down the road from school) as a chef four years ago. I had raised my three children and just knew it was time to come back.”
Dervilla is a big believer in local ingredients. She says the simplest herbs grown in the back garden or on the farm can transform a family dinner.
“Herbs like basil and rosemary are gorgeous and easy to grow,” she says. “And just a handful of good, local vegetables like green beans or kale can completely transform a dish. They are so versatile and can easily be grown on most Irish farms.
“Sapori is another beautiful garden herb and is very hardy – you can leave it out and forget to water it and it’s still fine.
“Rhubarb, apple trees and gooseberries all grow easily in Irish gardens and always make a lovely addition. And having your own compost heap really helps.”
She says getting too ambitious when you’re starting out is the biggest mistake most people make, and you have to learn how to manage what you’re growing before you “get too big.”
100ac Organic Ballymaloe Farm (run by Darina’s husband Tim), three miles from Ballymaloe House, is home to pigs, cattle and a dairy herd, and Dervilla uses the produce in its dishes “although it’s run as a separate business”. .
“There is a lot of beautiful seasonal fruit and vegetables growing there at the moment. Then when they slaughter a cow for meat, I take a lot of it for the restaurant.
“They make buttermilk, cream, cheese and yogurt there from the cows they milk.”
Dervilla’s cuisine reflects what is in season on the farm and in the garden.
“Using what’s local to you supports local jobs and keeps the Irish farm-to-fork tradition alive,” she says.
“I write a new menu every day to make the customers in the hotel happy because, for example, if they stay in the hotel for three nights, they don’t want to eat the same thing every day.
“It’s a bit crazy and you just have to be there all the time.”
“We source pork from a local farmer
and we have another farmer in Middleton who supplies us with local beef and lamb.”
This week, Dervilla works with seasonal vegetables like golden beets, Swiss chard and kale to create her dishes. She says her week starts by placing her orders for the week.
“I call our gardener every week and she’ll tell me what’s good for that week and what I’m not allowed to touch for the next week or so.
“Also, every morning at 7 a.m. I call the gardener at the cooking school and pick up my order for the day, and I do the same with the fishermen for our fish.
“We have our own beautiful walled garden and at the moment we have chard, kale, peaches, carrots, rhubarb which is in the process of being finished and broad beans all on our menus this week.
“Then in cooking school we have cherry tomatoes, which are just starting out, and zucchini.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/rural-life/ballymaloes-head-chef-dervilla-oflynn-on-how-she-rose-from-the-lowliest-role-to-the-top-job-and-how-she-uses-locally-grown-ingredients-to-keep-irelands-farm-to-fork-tradition-alive-41866767.html Ballymaloe Executive Chef Dervilla O’Flynn on how she rose from the lowest position to the top and how she uses locally sourced ingredients to keep Ireland’s farm-to-fork tradition alive