With the fifth annual Ballymaloe LitFest returning next month (19-21 May), its co-directors, sister and brother team Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell, were in Dublin this week to preview this year's programme to a full house at O’Connell’s Restaurant in Donnybrook.
Hospitality Ireland was in attendance at the event, which included an audience of culinary fans, chefs, food and drinks writers, policy makers, media and all-round lovers of food.
Allen and O'Connell were delighted to welcome John Bowman to MC the event alongside a selection of this year’s participants, such as Sunil Ghai of Pickle restaurant and Dorchas Barry. Guests got a genuine flavour of things to come, enjoying Kelly’s of Newport black pudding, Toonsbridge fior di latte mozzarella and devilled Granstown Farm Laois eggs.
Speaking at the event O’Connell said: "With just over a month to go, the countdown is on for LitFest 17. We’re excited by the change in direction this year from literary festival to food literacy festival, we’ve worked hard on the programme and are confident that there is something for everyone to enjoy over the three days. We’ve built on the success of the symposium in the Grainstore which was a new addition last year and this year the series of talks and discussions around the theme of responsibility really embody what LitFest is all about."
As in previous years, LitFest will be welcoming the experts – award-winning food writers, famous chefs, food and environmental activists, avant-garde farmers big and small, food filmmakers and photographers, soil experts and bee-keepers, wine makers, distillers and brewers, and policy makers.
Brian McGinn, director of the Emmy-winning Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table, will be interviewed as part of this year’s LitFest and British chef and cookery writer Margot Henderson will be cooking one of the pop-up lunches at LitFest 2017, which will be one of the most sought-after tickets of the weekend. Margot runs the caterers Arnold & Henderson, is the co-patron and chef of Rochelle Canteen in Clerkenwell, and is married to fellow chef and restaurateur Fergus Henderson.
The other pop-up lunch at this year’s LitFest will be cooked by Dublin-born Robin Gill whose string of innovative and exciting London restaurants – The Dairy, The Manor and Paradise Garage – has made him one of the hottest chefs in London. Jacob Kenedy also comes to LitFest 2017, chef patron of Italian restaurants Bocca di Lupo in Soho and Vico on Cambridge Circus, ice cream parlour Gelupo, and his latest project, a pub serving Cajun & Creole cuisines called Plaquemine Lock. Making a welcome return visit to LitFest 2017 too is Claudia Roden, the beloved Middle Eastern cookbook writer and cultural anthropologist.
Ben Reade also returns to Ballymaloe, the former Head of Culinary Research and Development at Noma's Nordic Food Lab and currently following the path of research-based cooking at Edinburgh Food Studio. Ben will be joined by his partner in the creative work at Edinburgh Food Studio, Sashana Souza Zanella and together they will be creating one of the always first-to-sell-out Saturday night pop-up dinners in the Cookery School.
The second pop-up dinner on Saturday night is in Ballymaloe House, and features a menu chosen to complement natural wines selected by France’s only female Master of Wine, Isabelle Legeron, founder of Raw Wine, the UK’s largest artisan wine fair, which has since expanded to include an annual event in Berlin and New York.