Hailed as one of the most fashionable modernday cookery writers, Yotam Ottolenghi was, for me, the star of the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine sponsored by Kerrygold.
The Israeli-born chef, who has seduced bon vivants in London with his excellent cuisine and his books, Plenty, Jerusalem and Ottolenghi: the Cookbook, travelled to east Cork for the festival last weekend accompanied by his small son, Max.
His home-cooked Saturday night dinner at the Ballymaloe cookery school was, undoubtedly, the highlight of the weekend, and Yotam cooked with his business partner, Sami Tamimi.
Among those enjoying the fare were newly engaged couple Donal Skehan and his very beautiful Swedish fiancee Sofie Larsson, whose calmness in the face of cookery deadlines is quite remarkable.
The LitFest was extraordinarily friendly, from the cool hipster foodies who were busy hashtaging everything to those commuting back and chic and luxurious Castlemartyr Resort, who have a delicious array of food products of their own.
You never knew who you were going to meet on the shuttle buses taking enthusiasts from Ballymaloe House over to the cookery school in Shanagarry.
“I just shared the edge of a seat with Thomasina Miers,” said Dublin food stylist Sharon Hearne Smith, whose No-Bake Bake cookery book is newly published.
Sharon’s 1960s “retro-housewife” style was much admired and her beehive hairdo survived the weekend.
I bumped headlong into Rachel Allen, her hands filled with a tasty, open chicken sandwich. “I haven’t eaten in two days,” she said, but it was that kind of weekend where everyone was too busy talking about food and hosting discussions to eat.
I spotted Eilis Boyle, the fashion designer turned digital expert and Slow Food enthusiast, grabbing a tasty snack outdoors. Eilis was one of the lucky ones to go foraging with Renee Redzepi and Alys Fowler.
By far the most striking image of the weekend was the sight of former All Blacks and Munster player Doug Howlett watching with the biggest smile on his face as his wife Monique took photos of their children in a field opposite Ballymaloe House.
This article was written by Kirsty Blake & Bairbre Power for the Irish Independent: