It’s meet-the-author time at Ballymaloe

This year’s Litfest promises lots of authors and chefs – and you can taste their food and take home their recipes

Fun on the fringe at Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine. Photograph: Joleen Cronin

Fun on the fringe at Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine. Photograph: Joleen Cronin

 

JR Riall is a pastry chef at Ballymaloe House. During last year’s Literary Festival of Food & Wine, he was called out of the kitchen by 92-year-old Mexica

n food expert Diana Kennedy to compliment his puff pastry. “I seized the moment, told her that I hoped to visit Mexico very soon; she extended an invite and I booked a flight,” he recalls, and he went on to spend a week cooking with Kennedy at her home.

The organisers don’t promise that by purchasing a ticket to see your favourite food or drink author in action at this year’s LitFest (May 15th-17th), you’ll find yourself becoming best buddies. But there are no VIP areas here, no cordoned-off sections reserved for important people. Buy your ticket (€97 for most of the cookery demos), and you’ll get up close and personal with your author or chef, taste food cooked by them and take home their recipes.

But just €5 will get you admission to the Big Shed, the beating heart of the festival, with its own fringe programme of free-to-attend events. It’s here that you could find yourself queuing for a goat burger with chef April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig in New York, comparing notes on Irish craft beers with London restaurateur Mark Hix, throwing shapes on the dance floor alongside Ballymaloe’s Rachel Allen, or taking in the atmosphere at the opening party (Friday, 7.30pm) with Alice Waters of Chez Panisse restaurant in California.

Tickets are still available, at the time of writing, for cookery demos by Chinese food expert Fuchsia Dunlop, New York chef April Bloomfield, London restaurateurs Sam and Sam Clark, Leon healthy fast-food chain co-founder Allegra McEvedy, Copenhagen chef Christian Puglisi, Avoca’s Leylie Hayes and Hugo Arnold, and food campaigner and writer Jack Monroe.

Not all of the ticketed events are expensive. Just €11 will get you admission to Dorothy Cashman’s discussion From Beckett to Banville, in the drawing room at Ballymaloe House (Saturday, 11.30am). Come prepared – you’ll be invited to share your favourite piece of food prose.

Joanna Blythman will discuss her latest book, Swallow This, with journalist and publisher John McKenna (Saturday, 2pm, €16). Magazine editors Christine Muhlke (Bon Appétit) and Miriam Atkins (Food & Wine), discuss their genre with Nicholas Lander, food critic at the Financial Times (Saturday, 4.30, €16).

Lively discussion is an important part of the LitFest line-up, and it will be standing-room only when restaurateurs and chefs JP McMahon, Alain Kerloc’h, Stephen Toman and Kevin Thornton discuss What’s Happening to Irish Food, with critic Tom Doorley, industry consultant and columnist Tim Magee, and John McKenna (Sunday, 1.15pm, €21).

See see litfest.ie

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