regular | Litfest A Food and Drinks Literacy Festival at Ballymaloe

Ben Reade and Sashana Souza Zanella own and run Edinburgh Food Studio, a restaurant and food research hub in Scotland's capital city.

Since studying at Ballymaloe in 2004, Ben has graduated at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG), Project Managed MAD Symposium and been Head of Culinary R & D at Nordic Food Lab. After completing her MA Food Place and Identity, Sashana became a Tutor at UNISG - guiding students on gastronomic study trips around the world. With her BA anthropology, and formation in classical french cuisine Sashana brings a unique profile to Edinburgh Food Studio.

Ben and Sashana run the studio as a part time restaurant space known for hosting pop ups from an array of high profile creative chefs, the studio also supports research internships and all outcomes are made available online (from early 2017).


Margot Henderson is one of London’s most influential chefs: She turned an old-school bike shed in Shoreditch into Rochelle Canteen, a beloved restaurant that offers a twist on classic British fare.

As a child, the first recipe Henderson made was a ginger crunch from New Zealand's classic Edmonds Cookery Book—she would later cook garden snails with breadcrumbs for her parents' dinner parties. She moved to the United Kingdom aged 20. She dropped out of an English degree at university and worked at a Mexican cantina to save money to come to London, having fallen in love and being obsessed by The Face magazine. Henderson split her work life between England and Australia for a few years, working with the Australian chef Stephanie Alexander. Henderson has worked at several notable restaurants in London; her career was described by journalist Rachel Cooke as "a CV that pretty much tells the story of all that was hip and delicious in 90s London". Initially working at the Notting Hill establishments 192 and First Floor, she later moved to the Quality Chop House in Farringdon and The Eagle gastropub in Clerkenwell.

At a Sunday lunch at The Eagle she met fellow chef Fergus Henderson. Fergus proposed to Margot at the City of London seafood restaurant Sweetings; the couple made a cassoulet for 300 people to eat at their wedding. The couple have three children. Fergus and Margot opened the French House Dining Room at Soho's French House in 1992, though Fergus would leave in 1994 to establish his St. John restaurant in Smithfield. Fergus was replaced as Margot's business partner by Melanie Arnold. The pair established the caterers Arnold & Henderson and founded the Rochelle Canteen in Clerkenwell in the early 2000s. The canteen also serves as a base for their catering company. The Rochelle Canteen is based in the former bicycle sheds of a Victorian school, which has been converted into artist's studios. The menu changes daily and serves seasonal British food. In an interview with Something Curated, Margot Henderson said, " All our seafood comes from British waters – we get our fish from Essex. They call up on the day that the boats come in and we get it that night and can serve it the next day."

Henderson published a cookery book, You're All Invited: Margot's Recipes for Entertaining, in 2012. She initially found it difficult to write but later felt that "I shouldn't have worried. I should have just done it. But I just kept putting it off, and then I would lose the thread." The book was later described by Cooke as not "desperately trying to take up a position. There are no earnest lectures about seasonality, no dreary outbreaks of solidarity with hard-pressed working women. Her introductions to each recipe are witty, but minimalist."

We are delighted to welcome Margot to Litfest for the first time this year.


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.

Having completed a degree in social anthropology in 2003 Alice was unsure of her career path. Following a summer working at Blaencamel organic farm and a stint at Ballymaloe cookery school Alice realised that at the right scale, organic farming could involve all the attributes of community engagement and environmental stewardship she was interested in. 
In 2006 Alice undertook the pilot of a Soil Association Farming apprenticeship at Coleshill Organics. In 2012 after a decade of working on many rural farms she moved to London, taking on the challenge of turning a dis-used ex council nursery site, into a productive urban organic farm. She continues to work as Head grower at Dagenham farm for Growing Communities, an organisation thats wider remit works to run a community lead trade model, enabling sustainable farmers to feed urban populations.
Alice is also the author of Do Grow, a book written with the aim of encouraging more beginners to have a go at growing their own veg, even if on a very small scale.
Having commenced his career at Dublin’s La Stampa Restaurant, Robin moved to London to work at Marco Pierre Whites’ legendary three Michelin star, The Oak Room. He then went on to work at Ristorante Don Alfonso a two star Michelin restaurant and farm on the Amalfi Coast, afterwhich he returned to the UK to work at the eponymous Le Manior aux Quat'Saisons where he stayed for several years and worked along side Raymond Blanc on many projects.
In February 2012 Robin embarked on a journey to get out and find new suppliers and visit some of the world’s best restaurants and partook in short stints in some of Europe's top kitchens such as Noma in Copenhagen and Franzten and Lindenberg in Stockholm.
After several months travelling the British Isles and Europe and blowing his life savings, he stumbled across an old dilapidated building in Clapham Old Town, London. After some dubious negotiations and a few beers and the support of his wife Sarah, Robin took on the site without a penny to his name in November 2012. Five months later Robin and Sarah with the help of close friends scrubbed, sanded, painted, and through blood sweat, tears and every penny into the place and five months later opened the Doors on St Patricks Day 2013 and The Dairy was born.
The Dairy is an exciting modern bistro with a produce led menu aiming to create a countryside farm to table feel. There is a back to basics approach where the team prepare most of the food in house, churning the butter, curing of meats, smoking fish and growing many herbs and vegetable in the rooftop garden and currently housing four bee hives creating a perfect permaculture not to mention some damn fine honey.
Within the first year, The Dairy received numerous awards including reaching the top 100 restaurant in the UK and voted number 24 in the national restaurant awards and was ranked 7th in the most sustainable restaurants in the UK.
Robin and Sarah have launched a second site, The Manor, a modern Bistro, which opened in November 2014 and is already a hit with the critics. The Manor follows The Dairy in creating an environment that is unpretentious and accessible for all - putting the focus on cooking great food and working with passionate wine producers that share the same philosophy.
In July 2015, Robin opened Paradise Garage on Paradise Row, his first foray into East London. Head chef on site is Simon Woodrow, previously of Arbutus, who had created a menu with a back to basics, simple and British approach, with produce at the forefront. This echoes the existing ethos at The Dairy and The Manor. As a further unique and exciting dining experience, Simon and Robin created a feasting ‘picnic’ to share for the table, centred around one animal – the first being a celebration of the rabbit - which includes roasted saddle, confit leg, turnover, belly scratchings and rabbit ’bacon’.
The most recent of the restaurants opened by Robin Gill is Counter Culture, in 2016. Located right next door to The Dairy, the aim was to capture the hustle and bustle of a San Sebastian pintxos bar paired with his own inimitable cooking style. The room is centred around the kitchen with only 15 seats - of which 6 are at the pass. The concise and frequently changing menu is based around our obsessive approach to produce and food culture, with an emphasis on fermenting, ageing, curing and pickling throughout the seasons.
Judy is an Irish writer based in London Bridge. She trained at Ballymaloe Cookery School where she first became alive to the importance of terroir, wine’s sense of place or ‘placeness’, or as Mrs. Allen wrote, that field always made good butter. Judy’s writing explores that sense of place.
Judy’s work has been published in The World of Fine Wine (UK), Alquimie (Australia) and The Irish Times. She won the Listowel Writers’ Week Original Poem Prize in 2015 (inspired by a wine trip to Napa) and her poetry has been published in Landfall (New Zealand). Thirst, her non-fiction work-in-progress, was shortlisted for the Tony Lothian Award in London in 2016 for best proposal for an uncommissioned first biography. The judges described the work as ‘a quest in many registers, and a celebration of the mystery of wine. Written with verve and insight, it’s a very modern form of memoir, and one that leads its readers into many different worlds along the way.’

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.

Ally Kelsey originally from Glasgow is the current venue manager of the multi award winning White Lyan Cocktail Bar in East London. White Lyan is the first bar in the world that has no perishables at all; that means no ice, no citrus or other fresh fruit. Winner of ‘Most Creative Bar’ by Timeout Bar Awards 2016. Ally has spent 14 years bartending in Glasgow and London and has been a frequent visitor to Ballymaloe. Lover of Whisk(e)y, cocktails and everything delicious.
Expect lots of friendly Celtic banter while Andy Ferreira and Ally Kelsey take you on a Cocktail adventure at Litfest 2017
Caro Feely is passionate about wine and organic farming as her four books inspired by a decade of adventures as a wine teacher and farmer / winemaker demonstrate. Caro and her husband Sean and young family, moved from South Dublin a decade ago, and purchased a vineyard in Saussignac, in South-West France.
Grape Expectations charts the Feelys move from being city professionals in Ireland to winegrowers in France with two children under three. It includes laughter, tears, a good dose of reality and inspiration for anyone with a crazy idea to change their life.
Caro's second book Saving our Skins is a family and an ecological story. Over the next four years Caro and partner Sean built the failing vineyard into an iconic organic and biodynamic vineyard in the area. Their wines won awards and their visits and wine school won the prestigious 'Best of Wine Tourism' Gold award for ecological tourism in the Bordeaux region.
The third book in the series Glass Half Full follows the ups and downs of their vineyard life and their adventure into natural wine-making. Caro's fourth book: Wine, the Essential Guide to Wine tasting, history and more is a hard cover guide packed with information and entertaining anecdotes about wine.
Through writing and sharing her experience of city professional turned farmer Caro spreads the word about living lightly on the earth. “Each small gesture may not seem a lot but it makes a difference: from avoiding unnecessary packaging to demanding organic food and wine from local shops and restaurants. We make change happen with our actions and word”

Severine is the executive director of Greenhorns, she has been an organizer and cultural worker within the young farmer movement for almost 10 years, proud co-founder of National Young Farmers coalition, FarmHack and Agrarian Trust, a part-time farmer, and board member of the Schumacher Center for New Economics.

Her work has spanned many media to celebrate, bundle and broadcast the voices and life-ways of young agrarians from films, radio, blog gossip, guidebooks, an anthology, 3 new farmers almanacs, to a mix tape and vinyl record! This trans-media work is designed to connect individuals within the broader community of action, helping to orient the work on the land, career, stamina and interpretation of place-based possibilities.

The mission of the Greenhorns is to promote, recruit and support the rising generation in organic agriculture. Greenhorns is based on Lake Champlain in Westport, New York, a 360 mile sail-boat ride from NYC.


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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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