regular | Litfest A Food and Drinks Literacy Festival at Ballymaloe

John McKenna has written about Ireland's food culture for almost thirty years, and has won many national and international awards for his work, including the André Simon Special Award. He is the curator of the annual The 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland, published since 1992. The Wall Street Journal described him as “Ireland’s most authoritative food writer”. He is currently working with Collins on a new guidebook to the whole of Ireland to be published in spring 2018.

McKennas’ Guides


Tomas Clancy, Wine Correspondent for the Sunday Business Post, is a journalist, writer and broadcaster. He is co-host of the weekly RTE Lyric FM Show, Intermezzo, with Raymond Blake and contributes as radio wine columnist on The Moncrieff Show Friday Feature.

He has written and presented radio shows and documentaries including his four part documentary series ‘The Wine Geese – The Story Of Ireland’s Influence On Wine Around The World From Bordeaux To Barossa’ for RTE Lyric FM and a Radio Column on RTE Lyric FM, ‘The Music Of Wine’, matching wine and music.

His other radio broadcasting includes contributor on legal, ethical, historical and constitutional issues on The Right Hook with George Hook on Newstalk FM; Morning Ireland on RTE 1; The Marian Finucane Show, The Pat Kenny Show, Talking Points With Sarah Carey and RTE 1’s The History Show with Myles Dungan amongst others. Television work includes TV3 Ireland AM’s Wine Corner and RTE 1’s Nationwide. He was a finalist for the Grands Jours de Bourgogne Trophee de la Presse in Beaune 2010 for his writing on French wine and culture.

Tomas has been a judge at VinExpo in Bordeaux, Concours Mondial, NOFFLA and Blas/Bord Bia and co-authored the Wine Republic with Martin Moran MW. Tomas Clancy read Law at Trinity College and is a barrister, senior lecturer in law and Director of the LLM Programme at Independent College Dublin.


Alys Fowler is a gardener who loves to eat. When not tending to her gardens she writes for The Guardian newspaper mostly about growing food.

She has written five books ranging from foraging to bee keeping and preserving the garden's bounty.

She is very interested in urban agriculture and agroecology. Eating and soil are her favourite subjects, which is useful because you can't do one without the other.


John Bowman is a broadcaster and historian. He has presented current affairs and historical programmes on RTE radio and television since the 1960s including Today Tonight in the 1980s and Questions and Answers from 1988 to 2009 when he began researching his history of RTE.

He has since published Window and Mirror: RTE Television, 1961-2011, the first comprehensive history of Irish television. His PhD, De Valera and the Ulster Question: 1917–1973, won the Ewart-Biggs Prize for its contribution to North-South understanding.

He was elected an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in 2009. He is currently working on historical documentaries in television and radio.

David Prior is an internationally published food and travel writer. He is the Contributing International Editor at Condé Nast Traveler, a Contributing Editor at Vogue Living and regularly contributes to T: The New York Times Style Magazine, WSJ Magazine, Bon Appetit, British Vogue and Italian Vogue.
After attending the University of Gastronomic Science in Bra, Italy on scholarship, David worked closely with iconic American restaurateur, author and activist Alice Waters as Director of Communications at Chez Panisse and the Edible Schoolyard Project. He continues to collaborate with Waters on creative projects as well as consulting on major hospitality projects globally.
David’s curiosity in the traditions and evolution of food culture around the world sees him hitting the road on a perpetual search for the best in taste and travel.
Joanna Blythman is an investigative food journalist and thorn in the flesh of the processed food industry and supermarkets.
She is the author of 7 books on food issues, including Swallow This, What To Eat, Shopped, and The Food We Eat.
Joanna is one of the most authoritative, influential commentators on the food chain.
She contribute to many newspapers and magazines, including the Guardian, Observer, Daily Mail, Sunday Herald, Sunday Times, the Grocer, and BBC Good Food Magazine,
She broadcasts on food matters, on programmes such as Women’s Hour, Radio 4 Food programme, Farming Today, Newsnight, Tonight, BBC Breakfast, and Today.
Joanna has won numerous awards for her articles and books, including five Glenfiddich Awards, a Caroline Walker Media Award for Improving the Nation’s Health by Means of Good Food, a Guild of Food Writers Award, a Derek Cooper Award- one of BBC Radio 4’s Food and Farming Awards- and a Good Housekeeping award for her Outstanding Contribution to Food.
See Twitter @JoannaBlythman
Imen McDonnell is an American cook, author, and photographer. In a former life, she spent her days working in television and commercial production while living in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. She now resides with her Irish husband and their young son on a centuries-old farm in rural Ireland and shares illustrious stories of farm life & food on her popular blog, and has contributed to Condé Nast Traveler (USA) and Town & Country (UK), and her modern Irish recipes and stories from the farm have been featured in The New York Times, The Irish Times, The Sunday Times (UK) The Los Angeles Times, Food and Wine Magazine, Huffington Post, Saveur Magazine and more.
Imen’s first book, The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm was published by Roost Books and distributed worldwide in spring of 2016.
In 2014, she teamed up with chef and producer, Cliodhna Prendergast and began collaborating on Lens & Larder, a series of creative food, travel & photography workshops set in extraordinary Irish country houses and the surrounding landscapes.
Joe McNamee is a food & travel writer and consultant. (Irish Examiner, John & Sally McKennas’ Guides, Sunday Business Post 101 Great Restaurants, Taste of Ireland, FFT, Member of Irish Food Writers' Guild; Author, Clifford & Son (Liberties Press)) Consultancy: Food Production, Food Product Development, Hospitality, Food Retail Outlets.
Joe McNamee has been writing about food since the late 1990s.Originally trained as a graphic designer, he made the switch to journalism in the ‘90s, initially as a magazine editor before becoming a features writer with the Irish Examiner and eventually moving to the arts desk to become Deputy Arts Editor. At various lean periods in his life, he has worked as a chef with over eight years professional experience, including two years as head chef in Cork's legendary Quay Co-op Evening Restaurant. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Culinary Arts from Cork Institute of Technology, is a member of Slow Food Ireland and the NUJ and dearly loves to commit eating.
Joe writes about Food, Drink, Cork and Stuff here
Mary Dowey is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers and lecturers. She has been wine editor of The Gloss since 2006, with a monthly column in the print edition of the magazine and weekly recommendations on For the previous decade she was wine correspondent of The Irish Times. She is the only Irish writer to contribute regular articles to the internationally acclaimed British wine magazine Decanter. She has written three books about wine besides contributing to several others.
Mary has run many wine appreciation courses and other events including the highly successful Gloss Wine Dinner Series at Dublin’s Merrion Hotel, now in its tenth year. Enthusiastic about the whole world of wine, she has a particular weakness for finely crafted champagnes and sparkling wines - at any time of day.

Darina Allen established the Ballymaloe Cookery School with her brother Rory O’Connell in 1983. The cookery school has had thousands of students pass through its doors since and now enjoys a world wide reputation for excellence. Author of over a dozen cookery books, her latest ‘30 Years at Ballymaloe’ is a celebration of the 30 years of the cookery school.

Darina is involved in numerous projects to improve the food we all eat and cook, including Slow Food, Eurotoques and Farmers Markets. She continues her first love – teaching at the cookery school on a daily basis.


Buy a Litfest Gift Voucher

Fringe Festival

Fringe Festival & The Big Shed


Stalls at Litfest17

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.

Check out the video of Litfest 2016

See Videos

Subscribe now and get all the news