A kitchen that’s earning its keep
Cookery demonstrations are helping one Dublin mother to hold on to her home
The view of the kitchen looking through to the formal dining room. Nikki and family eat at the pedestal antique pedestal table. Photograph: Anthony Woods
Nikki Walsh, aka Lady Eve, at the island in her kitchen having rustled up a sponge. Photograph: Anthony Woods
The office area of the kitchen where the kids, Jamie, age 10 and Evie, age eight, do their homework. Nikki also does her paperwork from here. Photograph: Anthony Woods
Chef Nikki Walsh has set up a business hosting cookery demonstrations in her Donnybrook house, raising the dough needed to make ends meet and doing what architects talk about all the time – making your home work for you.
Made redundant two years ago the Ballymaloe-trained, separated, mother-of-two had to find a new revenue stream. Hosting cookery demonstrations at home was the savvy working option, leaving her free to pick the children up from school, take them to their extra-curricular activities and spend time doing their homework with them rather than paying someone else to do it.
The idea started life as a favour to one of the mothers at her children’s school who had asked Walsh to give a demonstration on how to cater for Holy Communion.
When she picked up her frying pans and food processor she realised how much she loved teaching. And it dawned on her that she could make a living showing others the skill set that she learned on a 12-week Ballymaloe course.
The demonstrations take place in the evening and are set up like a supper party with Walsh holding court around her huge island. There can be up to 20 people in her home and the atmosphere is “really social”. You pick up tips while dining on a plate of whatever she’s cooked. The property’s open-plan layout, designed by Studio Red Architects, really lends itself to the job.
The Aga comes with a Jilly Cooper worthy saga. Walsh’s grandmother had one, so had her mother and it is where she first learned to cook. Walsh, whose company is called Lady Eve, originally operated as Lady Aga, until the pop princess’s legal team sent a writ asking her to desist or face the star’s wrath. When Aga, the range company, heard her story they made her a brand ambassador.
Designed and fitted by Thurles-based Andy Spillane, the kitchen features plenty of storage and has a home office area where the children do their homework. The grey cabinets are warmed by honey-coloured Tembec parquet flooring. An antique mahogany pedestal table overlooks a glazed back wall that slides back to open the house to the garden.
The formal dining room has a French mahogany table and balloon-back chairs, a set brought back by Walsh’s parents from Beaulieu-sur-Mer on the French Riviera.
In the sitting room there is a well-upholstered couch, heavy velvet drapes, open fire with a limestone surround and lots of family photographs set in silver-frames.
How do the children, Jamie (10) and Evie (8) feel about their home being invaded by wannabe cooks? They’re really supportive, says Walsh. “They stay with their dad on the nights I demo. In the morning they want to know how it went, what I cooked and who was there. ”
Walsh also rents out her fourth bedroom to a pair of foreign language students, a couple who share the room. The €160 she earns per student per week is another regular source of income.
Lady Eve’s classes cost €40 per person and include a French cookery class taking place on October 15th, a couples cookery class on November 13th and a singles night on November 20th. A children’s three-day mid-term cookery camp for seven to 11-year-olds runs from October 29th to 31st. Price €125. There is a teenage cookery camp for 12 to 17-year-olds on November 1st and 2nd. Price €85.
Contact Lady Eve at firstname.lastname@example.org