regular | Litfest A Food and Drinks Literacy Festival at Ballymaloe

Sarah Roarty of N17 Beer launched the first pair of her N17 brews in 2014. The N17 Oatmeal Stout won a medal at the Alltech International Craft Beers and Food Festival, and the Chili Porter has won Gold at the Alltech International Craft Beers Festival in 2016.

Sarah is a Chemistry graduate, having worked in both the UK and Germany in roles ranging from R&D to large scale manufacturing, before returning to Ireland where she specialised in Quality systems for multinational medical device industries. When her daughter Clara was born with a rare disorder known as Angelman Syndrome, a career change was necessary and this saw her take over the role as CEO of a local Chamber of Commerce before turning her hand to brewing and the life of an entrepreneur.

Craft beer is enjoying a rise in popularity worldwide but Sarah's company called N17 is a craft brewery with a difference.  “We are a brewery that squeezes every last drop out of the brewing process. So far, we've found another eight products we can make, all from the by-products from brewing the humble pint. At the heart of what N17 do is offer employment opportunities to people of all abilities, helping individuals find jobs that are right for them based on their skills, jobs where they can add value and be valued in the workforce. Many of the N17 staff at Craft Beer Festivals are adults with Down Syndrome, who have the ideal skillset to offer excellent customer service while pulling a pint.”

The social impact of the business and the rich story that accompanies it captures the hearts and minds of consumers turning people into advocates for the brewery and its unique business model. With several international medals and awards for their range of ales, stouts and porter it’s true to say that not only does the beer taste good, it inspires imagination and does good too.

“We are going back to a process where you utilise everything. Beer is the envoy, but N17 is really a way of doing business, a way of looking at things differently”.

Sarah was Ireland’s first female beer sommelier, graduating from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London and was awarded the prestigious gold medal.

As an international beer judge Sarah has judged the Global Craft Beer Awards in Berlin and the Overall Best of British Awards in the UK.

John McKenna writes “The brilliance of Roarty’s N17 can be expressed simply: this is a vision of health that is truly inclusive: for individuals, for business, for the planet. It is a sustainable Irish food philosophy, as seen through a glass, brightly.”


Dr. Niall Smith received his PhD from UCD in the area of astrophysics in 1990.

Since then he has maintained an active research group (currently at Blackrock Castle Observatory) that develops new techniques to support research into surveys for extrasolar planets and surveys of quasars (the most powerful continuously-emitting objects in the universe). Niall is also a founder member of BCO and a passionate believer in the importance of quality science education.

He is presently the Head of Research at CIT and Chair of the Institute's Research & Development Committee. Niall has 22 publications in international journals, a book chapter on astrophysical photometry, is a member of the National Committee for Astronomy and Space Science and also the International Astronomical Union.

Sunil Ghai was born in India in 1977, and grew up in the prosperous city of Gwalior in Central India. He is the leading Indian chef in Ireland, winning an impressive array of awards including FOOD&WINE Magazine’s Chef of the Year 2009. Former Corporate Chef of the Jaipur & Ananda Restaurant Group and has won many fans for his bold, contemporary cooking style.
He is currently at the helm of his own Venture at Pickle Restaurant Eating house & Bar on Camden street, Dublin 2.
“Many of my influences in the creation of my recipes come from my mother. she has a fantastic imagination when it came to cooking and I have yet to taste food quite like it. In the kitchen, I found the answers to all my curiosities,” says Indian born chef Sunil Ghai".
His home city of Gwalior was an ideal starting point for an aspiring chef. Known as the city of music it boasts over 400 years of royal music patronage which also brought with it the best cuisine from every corner of the nation. Sunil's first passion in life was cricket followed by his mother's first love – cooking. "The wonderful thing about growing up in Gwalior was the eclectic influences all around you. It’s a melting pot of culinary delights from all over the many different regions of India,” says Sunil.
He graduated from the Gwalior Catering in 1996. He also gained an Economics' degree in 1996. While studying for both qualifications The Oberoi Hotel Group recruited him as a trainee chef in 1995. He remained there for five years covering all aspects and regions of Indian cuisine.
Sunil’s food philosophy is inspired by the rich culinary traditions of the sub-continent, reworked in an enticingly traditional. The very best local, fresh ingredients, the world’s finest spices, and the talent of the pickle team combine to meet the challenge of creating beautiful & Tasty plate of food
Seasons and regions are reflected in a menu that changes to honour the particular qualities of non-indigenous ingredients and the traditional tastes and styles that best suit them. From the rich, meat-based foods of the up North to the vegetarian cuisine of Kashmir and the, a world of tastes is distilled to create the essence of pickle
For Sunil “each plate is a journey, a delight for the eye and the palette.”

Pickle awards

  • Pickle won Best world cuisine 2016 food and wine
  • Best ethnic restaurant 2017 by Georgina Campbell
  • Yest chef awards 2016 best indian in ireland ..
  • Listed in McKenna’s 100 best in Ireland.
Blathnaid Bergin, graduate of Shannon College of Hotel Management, grew up in a General Merchants Business which encompassed a Public House, Grocery, Service Station, Undertakers, Post Office, and Agricultural Service to farmers. Blathnaid went on the study Hotel Management at Shannon College of Hotel Management, graduating with honours. Blathnaid then worked in the UK and Ireland in management roles in the industry and took one important year out to learn from Myrtle Allen in the kitchens at Ballymaloe House.
Blathnaid ran her own catering business and cookery school from 1984- 1998, catering for events ranging from christenings to weddings in venues as diverse as hunting lodges to fields.
Blathnaid undertook a Masters Degree in Hospitality Management in 2002 and followed this with professional qualifications in Adult Learning , Conflict Resolution and Mindfulness Based Interventions, all of which are channelled into her work with businesses.
Blathnaid has been assisting restaurants, hotels, public houses, coffee shops and cafes with opening and improving the efficiencies of their businesses for several decades. In 2010, Blathnaid launched the Business of Food Courses.
Having witnessed at first hand the mistakes people make time after time while setting up in the food service sector; Blathnaid developed a range of short, focused, practical courses aimed at saving time, money, heartache and financial misery. The Business of Food Courses focus on getting the business part of food right, so that the business is a successful financial enterprise.
The courses have already attracted students from all over the world, some of whom have gone on to open successful food service businesses.
Blathnaid has worked with, and continues to work with many new and developing businesses across the food service sector and is proud to be the preferred provider of Business Learning at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Blathnaid has delivered Business of Food Courses to the members of the Vintners Federation of Ireland in 2016 and both VFI & the Restaurants Association of Ireland in 2017.
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.
You can grab a daily portion of “Good Food News” on the shop’s lo-tech and very popular blackboard and on T, F, I #thegoodfoodnewsis @Urrubandon

Owner of a wonerful community cafe and grocers in Arnold Circus, London. The cafe prepares simple and delicious food using fresh seasonal ingredients from the shop.


Cliodhna Prendergast is a professional chef and food writer- photographer for the Sunday Times. She is one half of Lens and Larder; Photography and food styling workshops telling visual food stories with International photographers in extraordinary Irish Country Houses.

Cliodhna is also the producer and host of Breaking Eggs thirty beautifully filmed programmes which she produced with her three young childern to encourage other parents to cook with their children.

She lives in Connemara, a spectacularly beautiful and wild region in the west of Ireland where she enjoys gathering and cooking with wild food.


Series Producer, reporter @bbcradio4 @bbcfoodprog, #bbcfoodawards, sometimes presenter & @arkoftaste series, @bbcworldservice. FOOD = a lens for the BIG stuff.

Justin grew up at Ballyvolane House when it was an active dairy farm and spent many a school holiday milking cows, driving tractors, feeding animals and digging holes. In the mid-1980’s, Justin’s parents, Jeremy and Merrie, opened the house to Paying Guests or PG’s as they were known then. The focus then shifted from farming to hotel-keeping and good authentic food was always at the forefront of the business. This, along with a fondness for Fawlty Towers, Justin’s career path was decided and he was accepted into the Shannon College of Hotel Management. After graduation, Justin spent a many of years working in Asia in some of the swankiest hotels in the world such as the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, The Legian in Bali and The Jumeirah Beach in Dubai. In 2000, Justin moved back to Ireland with his wife Jenny, where he managed Browne’s Brasserie & Townhouse in Dublin. In 2002, he moved across the pond to work with Soho House as General Manager of Babington House in Somerset. Justin & Jenny took over the reins of Ballyvolane House from Justin’s parents in 2004 following the passing away of Merrie.
Having watched the ‘gin space’ for a number of years, Justin realised gin was having a bit of moment. Bertha was born!
Likes: second helpings, old Landrovers and woods.
Must try harder: to give up second helpings.

Sheila Dillon is a British food journalist who began her career writing for the New York food magazine Food Monitor.

She is known to listeners of Radio Four as presenter of The Food Programme, on which she has appeared for more than 20 years. Dillon has been the programme's regular presenter since 2001.


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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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