The Allen Family announces with great sadness that Myrtle Allen, founder of Ballymaloe House and founding member of Ireland’s Blue Book, died on Wednesday June 13.
After a short battle with pneumonia, 94-year-old Myrtle Allen passed away in the company of her family at Cork University Hospital.
A matriarch of Irish food and hospitality, she enjoyed a 50-year long career as chef, hotelier and restaurateur at Ballymaloe House, Cork, which led her to become a trailblazer for aspiring industry professionals around the country.
With her husband Ivan, Myrtle opened her home, Ballymaloe House, as a restaurant and hotel in 1964. With her culinary philosophy of using the finest of local and seasonal produce, Ballymaloe House quickly gained recognition as a gourmet destination. In little over a decade, Myrtle became the first Irish woman to be awarded a Michelin Star.
Myrtle continued her endeavours in the early 1970’s and established the marketing association, Ireland’s Blue Book, with 10 other Irish Country House Hotels. Myrtle’s efforts allowed the association to go from strength to strength, and Ireland’s Blue book will next year be celebrating 45 years, with over 50 country houses, historic hotels and restaurants in the collection.
Speaking on Myrtle's passing, CEO of Ireland’s Blue Book, Michelle Maguire said, "We are so sorry to hear of the loss of our great friend and mentor, our sympathies are with the Allen family at this time. We owe a great deal to Mrs. Allen, it is because of pioneers like Myrtle that historic Country House Hotels have become such a vital element of the Irish tourism story."
Meanwhile, Sallyanne Clarke of Dublin restaurant L’Ecrivain said, "We are so very sorry to hear about the passing of Myrtle Allen, a founding member of Ireland’s Blue Book and a shining beacon in the Irish food industry. This amazing lady started Ballymaloe House to show Ireland and the rest of the world how our own Irish fresh local ingredients were the way to go. In the old days, we imported so much. Myrtle showed us all how to utilise fresh local ingredients available on our doorstep, and to be proud of our heritage by supporting our local artisan producers. They have flourished with her encouragement. The entire food industry owe so much to the ‘mother of Irish cooking’. She was a rebel in her day with passion and a mission. She never stopped promoting our food and indeed our home-grown chefs and cooks too. We owe her a debt of gratitude. She will be very fondly remembered as a wonderful hard-working lady in every sense of the word, and sadly missed by us all. Our deepest condolences to all her family. May Myrtle rest in peace."
Ballymaloe House is still run by the Allen Family and celebrates over 50 years of international recognition as the home of Irish country cuisine and hospitality.
© 2018 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.