Dervilla O'Flynn is the Head Chef at Ballymaloe. She came to the position after a rich and varied career within many different areas of the hospitality industry. Here we sit down with her to learn all about her favourite ingredients, food memories and what she loves about her job.
You're stranded on a desert island. What five ingredients would you take with you? What would you make?
I would take eggs as they're so versatile. I could make so many breakfast dishes and a dessert of Carrageen Moss Pudding that we always have on our dessert trolley at Ballymaloe, with seaweed that I would forage.
I would also bring a sachet of perennial vegetable seeds that are suitable for sandy soil so that I could have a vegetable patch; butter to cook the fish I will catch and season the vegetables that I will grow; basmati rice for kedgeree with my freshly caught fish or to accompany my vegetable ragout or thicken my island vegetable soup - all courtesy of my vegetable patch. And finally, gluten-free flour to make bread, as I love toast and butter.
I know that locally sourced ingredients are very important to the restaurant. How do you choose your suppliers?
The Allen family have always employed local people to work with them and have used local suppliers to source their ingredients and I try my best to keep this going. Our farm supplies us with piggies, vegetables, salads, eggs and we get milk, buttermilk, yoghurt and our fabulous sourdough bread from the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Our fish comes from Ballycotton along with shrimps, lobsters and crabs from small boats and our beef comes from within a five-mile radius. We tend to buy directly from the cheese suppliers for our cheese boards to get them in the best condition possible. We seriously know how lucky we are to have access to and to work with these ingredients. When considering new suppliers we will give most people a chance if they have filled the obvious criteria first. And if the standard and supply are good we go with it.
Where do you go when you want to eat at a restaurant?
I just had a weekend at the Inis Meáin Suites and ate such simple, fresh, delicately cooked food. Dinner in the Mews in Baltimore and Choux in Amsterdam have been some of the most memorable. And not to forget dinner parties at home are up there as well!
What is your favourite food memory?
As a child, my grandmother made her own brown bread with millet in a round cake tin and I'd say we annoyed her by eating half of it while it was still hot! That and Dad's Spaghetti Bolognese.
What do you love most about your job?
I love trying new ways to cook the ingredients that we have on our doorstep. The poor beetroots must be sick of us experimenting with them! We made a gorgeous beetroot and Killeen cheese risotto recently. I also love when the chefs are happy and enjoying their work.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Probably the cookery school produce. So broad beans in May or June; cherry tomatoes in July or Slim Jim aubergines in August.