Face To Face With Catherine Fulvio
Published on Apr 18 2013 4:27 PM in Food
The chef-proprietor of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School describes working in the dream environment at the dream job.
How did you start off in this business?
I was born into it and grew up in the business. Thanks to my parents I’ve been around food for as long as I can remember. After school I went to study in UCD and went on to specialise in PR and when the chance arose to become marketing manager for Tinakilly House in Wicklow I jumped at it... By then, I knew I wanted to run my own business in hospitality and from there decided to come back and convert the old milking parlour into a cookery school.
Your best career/business decision?
To come back to the family business and open the cookery school. Prior to that, we specialised in walking holidays here at Ballyknocken and I realised how we could marry the two making a wonderful combination of a walking and cookery breaks.
The best thing about your job?
The location. I just love where we are here in the Wicklow mountains with views out over the Irish Sea. I am passionate about everything that Ballyknocken has to offer and the fact that I am third generation here. A dream environment for a dream job.
Your biggest challenge?
Like most, the current economic environment – a downturn in international tourism has meant we have had to look to new markets and be creative in what we offer.
Ambition for the coming year?
To continue to grow my presence in a highly competitive yet exhilarating UK market by making a reappearance on the famous BBC Saturday Kitchen TV show before the year is out, as well as being part of the list of chefs to host demonstrations at the BBC Good Food Show and other shows. And there’s a forthcoming BBC Radio 2 Drive Time interview. And of course the launch of my fourth cookbook in the autumn, of which I will tell you more closer to the time!
Most embarrassing moment?
Being caught red-faced by a group of American tourists as I hollered at a herd of sheep that were happily munching their way through my salad leaves in the garden. I can’t remember the exact language I used, but I told the Americans it was Irish!
Three attributes you wish you had?
I’d love to be able to sing properly. I would love to have progressed beyond playing the piano accordion... And I really wish I hadn’t snuck out of Irish dancing classes to go to thesweet shop. Who knows, I might have made it into Riverdance.
What was your worst job and why?
Plucking turkeys at Christmas. The first one was ok, but by the 24th turkey you wished there was only ham for Christmas.
Any pet hates?
I can’t stand when people say “what” or worse still “wha'” or “huh?” instead of pardon.
Your earliest memory?
Collecting eggs from the nesting box and being attacked by what seemed, at the time, to be giant-sized hens, I was only four and had disturbed the hens while they were still laying.
Your business motto?
Being in a people business, one thing that is very important to me is to always treat people as I would like to be treated myself – this applies to staff and guests or indeed anybody I come in contact with during the working day.
The best advice you have ever received?
“Unless it is written down, it won’t get done.”
The fictional character you most identify with?
Miss Marple, I love a good game of Cluedo. I am the reigning champion here at Ballyknocken.
One thing you always have in your fridge?
A selection of Irish cheese.
Death row meal?
Lobster ravioli followed by Wicklow lamb with fig tapenade and for dessert a yoghurt panna cotta with rhubarb and ginger compote.
Your biggest disappointment to date?
I still haven’t won the Lotto!