The Great Grocers- Sourcing the best ingredients | Litfest A Food and Drinks Literacy Festival at Ballymaloe

Sourcing the Best Ingredients: Leila McAlister (Leila’s, London), Sally Clarke (Clarkes, London), Peter Ward (Country Choice, Tipperary), Ruth Healy (Urru, Bandon) and Sally Butcher (Persepolis, London) hosted by Darina Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School

We need the great shop keepers to bring us the ingredients from around the globe that bring our tables to life. It would be hard to imagine a more respected line-up of those purveyors than the speakers we have for this talk. All of the grocers are heroes of both Darina and Rory and we cannot wait to hear the stories attached to the sourcing of the delights that fill their shelves.

Leila McAllistar is the owner of a wonderful community cafe and grocers in Arnold Circus, London. The cafe prepares simple and delicious food using fresh seasonal ingredients from the shop.

Sally Butcher is the fiery-haired proprietress of the notable Persian food store Persepolis in Peckham, London, which she runs with her Persian husband, Jamshid.

She is also a prolific author and blogger, who has amassed a devoted online following for her food, shop, and Peckham-related musings. The foodie delights of the Middle East are her specialist subject, but she has been known to venture far and wide for inspiration.

Her first book, Persia in Peckham, was published to critical acclaim and short-listed for the 2008 André Simon Award. It was also selected by the Sunday Times as their cookery book of the year. Her following tomes, Veggiestan, Snackistan and Salmagundi (shortlisted for The Guild of Food Writer Awards 2015 ‘Cookery Book of the Year’ category), have also received critical acclaim.

Sally Clarke grew up in Guildford, Surrey and after school, studied Hotel and Catering management at Croydon College, followed by 1 year in Paris at the Cordon Bleu. During this time she also worked as an unpaid commis chef in 3 different restaurants.

Back in London, she worked for Prue Leith, both in her catering business and as a teacher at Leith's School of Food and Wine.

From 1979 Sally lived and worked in California, at Michael's Restaurant and the West Beach Cafe, learning both kitchen and dining room skills. It was during this time that she met Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, who became a friend, and subsequently her mentor. Alice continues to be her inspiration on a daily basis.

In 1984 she opened Clarke's Restaurant on Kensington Church Street, offering daily-changing menus, and what was to become her famous 'no choice menu' set dinner. Every night her customers were offered a four course menu, which offered the best and the freshest from the market of that day. Still now, the menus are constantly changing, showcasing the seasonal changes throughout the year.

In 1989, her provisions shop next door opened its doors, offering freshly baked goods from the restaurant kitchens. Following the rapid success of both the restaurant and the shop, the Sally Clarke Wholesale Bakery was born. Situated in North Kensington, it now supplies over 100 customers on a daily basis with breads, croissants, tarts, cakes and chocolate truffles.

The Production Kitchen opened a few years ago, creating all the takeaway items for the Sally Clarke shop, including soups, chicken pies, souffle Suissesse, salads, ready meals and much more.

1999 saw the publication of her first book, "Sally Clarke's Book, recipes from a Restaurant, Shop and Bakery" and in 2015, her 2nd book, "30 Ingredients" was published by Francis Lincoln celebrating the restaurant's 30 years.

In 2009 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen's birthday honours list for services to the hospitality industry.

She works within the restaurant, shop, bakery and production kitchen and can be seen most days in the dining room, the shop and the kitchens


Peter Ward proprietor of Country Choice, Tipperary and a mover and shaker who makes things happen on the Irish culinary scene. Peter is regarded as a food icon in Ireland.


Ruth Healy is the owner of Urru Culinary Store in Bandon Co. Cork. Before becoming a shopkeeper, Ruth lived in Japan and England and worked with Procter & Gamble UK and Ireland. She then completed the Ballymaloe Cookery School Certificate course. Ruth’s family background is in Cork city-centre grocery shopkeeping.

Urru’s story provides an insight into the broader Irish food story across the past 14 years including the evolution of producers & products; the competitiveness of independent food retail in a market town and food retail as a lifestyle experience.

As an award winning member of Good Food Ireland, Urru works to provide an interactive platform for the very best of Irish produce & the people who want to discover & eat it. The bright & contemporary store, combines local food with kitchenwares, Irish culinary craftwares, cookery books, wine & a café, in the traditional market town of Bandon, making for a characterful & rewarding shopping experience that is embedded in its community.

Outside of the shop Ruth has worked locally and nationally with numerous food related groups including Bandon Farmers Market, Bandon Food Trail, West Cork Slow Food and as Failte Ireland Food Champion in developing food tourism.

And some trivia….

Urru stands for ‘Urban-Rural’, capturing the precious and close relationship between producers & consumers in Ireland.


Date: Sunday 21st May
Time: 14.00 - 16.00
Venue: BCS Demo Room 1
Price: €25


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About Litfest

Litfest - A Food and Drinks Literacy Festival at Ballymaloe is a weekend filled with fascinating facts, inspirational stories, intriguing discussions, incredible knowledge, fantastic music, fabulous dancing and of course, delicious food and drinks.
It is the only festival of its kind in Ireland and has created an important hub for food and drinks enthusiasts worldwide to meet and share ideas with each other.

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