Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)


Department of Tourism and Hospitality

First Advisor

Dr. Margaret Linehan

Second Advisor

Breda Hickey


The focus of this research is Ballymaloe Cookery School situated in East Cork, Ireland. This study seeks to understand the emergence of the cookery school, how this business has evolved over time and to investigate the impact it has had on the local area. Ballymaloe Cookery School was officially founded by brother and sister, Darina Allen (nee O’Connell) and Rory O’Connell in Shanagarry, Co. Cork in 1983. The findings examine the establishment of the cookery school as a family business and its attributes. Set amongst a rural landscape, close to the sea and surrounded by agricultural land, the school is well served by its organic gardens, farm, orchards and greenhouses. This is central to the defining ethos of Ballymaloe and sets it apart from sites of culinary learning elsewhere. In order to analyse the success and impact at Ballymaloe Cookery School in light of its values and early motivations, a qualitative approach based on semi-structured interviews was chosen. Analysis of the interviews resulted in a number of key findings.

The results from this study indicate that, although the values underpinning Ballymaloe Cookery School and the fundamentals of cooking taught there remain constant, the school has undergone change, and innovation has been critical to its success. An aim of the empirical research was to explore the thoughts and perceptions of respondents regarding Ballymaloe Cookery School, in order to make conclusions about its impact and influence. Though the achievements of Ballymaloe Cookery School have resonance nationally and internationally, the impact of the cookery school in the region of East Cork is the focus of this study. Employment, support of local tourism, and support for local food producers were found to constitute the impact the school has locally. Additionally, the embeddedness of Ballymaloe Cookery School in the local community is considered significant for the region.

The study also highlights the educational outreach conducted at Ballymaloe Cookery School, specifically The East Cork Slow Food Educational ‘Grow and Cook’ Project. Co-founder Darina Allen has been an activist in relation to specific issues of food justice, and a strong tradition of training and advocacy prevails at Ballymaloe Cookery School. The career paths of past students at the school are further evidence of this. In summary, this research discusses how Ballymaloe Cookery School, with Darina Allen at the helm, has benefited the local region of East Cork.

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