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Destination known: culinary world loses 2 greats in 1 week

Wednesday, 20th June, 2018 4:46pm

The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster for a lot of chefs and food lovers.

First, the charismatic American chef Anthony Bourdain saw no way of continuing his life and died by suicide while he was in France and then last week, the wonderful and iconic Mrs Myrtle Allen passed away at the tender age of 94.

Both deaths shook me to the core. Anthony Bourdain was the type of food lover I wanted to be – no boundaries in anything he tried. He ate his way around the globe and he never turned down food, which he showcased in his ‘Destination Unknown’ television show.

I am not that brave and at this stage I will never be. He was one of the most outspoken chefs I have ever come across. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting him to ask him all the questions I wanted to know the answer to.

I loved watching him in interviews – his views weren’t pleasing, they weren’t even always popular but they were always original. He didn’t need to copy anyone to stand out – he demanded attention.

Whatever pushed him so hard that he didn’t see any other way than to leave us, he will leave a gap in the food world.

On the other spectrum was Mrs Myrtle Allen - soft-spoken, pleasant but no less passionate about food. She established Ballymaloe House at a time when fine dining wasn’t in fashion in Ireland and focused on local produce, most of which came from her farm.

Mrs Allen was also one of the first supporters of Irish farmhouse cheeses, being one of the first customers of the late Veronika Steele’s Milleen cheese. She stems from a time where life seems simpler, less complicated and her food mirrored this style throughout her reign. I am saying reign, as for me she was Irish royalty.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs Allen a few years back – it was easy to talk to her, as her memory was amazing.

We talked about her recipe collection and how the Irish food scene had changed since she started out.

She was more than just a home cook who happened to run a country house. She put Ireland on the map for food lovers. She welcomed chefs from all over the globe to Ballymaloe House and has nurtured generations of chefs here in Ireland, amongst them Darina Allen.

She was one of the founding members of EuroToques – an association of chefs who are committed to high standards, traditions and locality. Being amongst the likes of Paul Bocuse to start EuroToques showed the respect that Mrs Allen already gathered in 1986.

She will be terribly missed. My thoughts are with her family.

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