RACHEL's at home in the kitchen


Cooking is surely the new rock ‘n’ roll. Whenever we switch on our televisions, we are confronted with some form of cookery programme. If it isn’t cuddly Antony Worrell Thompson, it will be the socially minded Jamie Oliver, trying to persuade our kids to eat healthily, or the foul mouthed Gordon Ramsey again rubbishing some hapless wanabee cook, while the Gentleman Master Chef of Padstow – Rick Stein, invites us along on his travels around the food spots of the world. 

These chefs are all talented in their own way but they are not as easy on the eye as the beautiful Rachel Allen. With her finely etched patrician features and delicious recipes, Rachel manages to do what the buxom Nigella Lawson never could. She makes us believe we can do what she does - and never overdresses in psuedo-50s fashions to 
prove it. Like the majority of us, Rachel Allen usually wears comfortable jeans and a shirt while cooking in her kitchen. 

Brought up in Dublin, she and her sister would pretend to be Delia Smith, each talking to the wall as they made biscuits. But cooking was not her first choice for a career. With her father in the shoe business and her mother in fashion, young Rachel quite fancied the life of a shoe designer – she might have turned out to be the Manolo Blahnik of Ireland - but then at the age of 18, she was persuaded to take a cookery course. ‘ I took the three month course mainly as something to have with me while I was travelling for a few years but after the first day I realised I really loved it.’ Greatly enthused she thought she would try cooking for a while. ‘I’ve never had one grand plan for my future. I have always taken things as they come’.

For a while, she worked as a caterer in Vancouver before returning to teach at the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School, which had been started by her future grandmother-in-law, the matriach of Irish cookery, Myrtle Allen. Her daughter, cookery advisor, Darina Allen was to eventually become Rachel’s mother-in-law. 

Ballymaloe is one of the top cookery schools in the UK, enjoying an international reputation. ‘It is a Country House on a farm in Cork’, Rachel explains ‘and most of the food used is produced on the farm. Mainly concentrating on local organic produce, we focus on good, simple food and top quality ingredients’

Her own philosophy on food is uncomplicated: use good ingredients, simply prepared, and you will get great results. Her food reflects the demands of her own lifestyle, a busy working mother of two young sons, entertaining at home, easily prepared but with her own individual spin that comes from many years of working in an internationally rated establishment.

Rachel admires several cooks including Antony Worrel Thompson, ‘he is a great cook and great fun’, and thinks Jamie Oliver is ‘just fanastic in what he is doing’ When asked about Gordon Ramsey, she laughed. ‘I think he is a great character and good at what he does but I don’t do food in the same way. Mine is much simpler - I couldn’t do what he does. But what’s he like!’ still laughing. She also harbours a dream to visit Padstow in Cornwall and eat at Rick Stein’s famed 

restaurant. ‘He is absolutely amazing. When he talks about food, I can taste it and he is so nice! I love the way he comes across. He is definitely a favourite of mine’....

This interview appeared in full in the 'Irish Post' on Oct 21.06

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