Darina Allen, dubbed "The Julia Child of Ireland" by the San Francisco Chronicle, is the first and foremost the founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School, which she established with her brother Rory O'Connell in 1983. The school’s culinary philosophy is based on enhancing the natural flavours of the best and freshest local ingredients. Her great love of the food of her country has inspired her to author of 10 books, appear on television (in her hugely popular series, Simply Delicious) and become the councillor for Ireland's Slow Food chapter, all in the name of sharing her passion with others. Darina's work with teaching local children about farm to plate eating and her efforts in setting up the Farmer's Market Movement in Ireland have made her a regional culinary icon—easily Ireland's most famous cook.
Allen has an award for nearly ever year over the past 2 decades, including Good Food Ireland’s Cookery School of the Year (2012 and 2013), José Navarro Foundation Award at the Green Awards (2011) and IACP Cooking Teacher of the Year (2005).
In 2013 she helped launch the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine, which plays host to a stellar line up of chefs and writers and has very quickly become an unmissable event on the international culinary calendar. Vehemently opposed to the growing of GM crops in Ireland, she also chairs the Artisan Food Forum, which acts as a liason with the FSAI to articulate the difficulties and challenges experienced by the Artisan and Speciality food sector.
Her best-selling, award-winning books include: 30 Years at Ballymaloe (Winner Cookbook of the year for the Irish Book Awards 2013), Forgotten Skills (winner of the André Simon Food Book of the Year and Listowel Food Fair Book of the Year Award in 2010), Easy Entertaining (winner of the 2006 Chefs and Restaurants Award from the IACP), Irish Traditional Cooking, Ballymaloe Cookery Course, A Year at Ballymaloe, Healthy Gluten-free Eating, and the Simply Delicious series of books to accompany her TV series of the same name.