Officially the day starts at 9am when students, attired in their chef’s whites, converge on the school kitchens for the morning’s cooking. Many of the students live in the self-catering cottages in the courtyard beside the school, others live in rented accommodation close by.
Those on the herb and vegetable rota will already have met the gardeners at 8am. They walk through the gardens and down to the greenhouses to harvest and pick the produce for the morning’s cooking. Students who have an interest in growing have the opportunity to glean lots of tips from our team of gardeners.
Those who want to learn how to milk a cow have an even earlier start. Haulie will have the two Jersey cows in the little milking parlour by 7.30am - this is not an obligatory part of the course but most of our budding chefs opt to add to their knowledge of how food is produced – ‘Can milk a cow’ looks good on a CV and certainly gets the conversation started!
When they bring the warm frothy milk back to the school it goes through the 80 year-old Alfa Laval separator and the rich Jersey cream is kept to make butter or to serve with pudding. Most of the milk is pasteurized but Darina and her family prefer raw milk for the family and grandchildren.
Back in the kitchens the students start work. They cook the dishes demonstrated at the previous afternoon’s class. Each student will typically cook between two and four dishes during the three hour session with guidance and support from their teacher. There is plenty of opportunity for one-to-one guidance. At the end of the class there is a tutored tasting and students are assessed on a daily basis throughout the course.
At noon all the students, teachers and guests sit down together for a convivial lunch in our beautiful dining room. On warm sunny days students sit out in the courtyard or fruit garden after lunch enjoying a relaxing coffee or fresh herb tea.
The afternoon demonstration begins at 1.45 with a question and answer session on the morning’s cooking session. The course starts at basics and moves through to more advanced techniques by the end of the 12 weeks.
At the end of the afternoon cookery class each student tastes each dish to they know what to aim for when they are in the kitchen next day.
After school is over for the day? If the weather is good then there are plenty of outdoor activities – tennis, swimming, walking or just lounging around in our beautiful gardens. We're close to a fabulous beach and lots of pretty villages and towns. Many students use the late afternoon to read their recipes and do a detailed order of work and time plan for the morning’s cooking. Some nights a group of students will decide to visit a local restaurant or pub. Occasionally there is an evening lecture or a specialist class on cheese making, butchering, or organic gardening. Some students may enjoy foraging, particularly in autumn there are lots of blackberries, damsons, sloes, elderberries and sometimes wild mushrooms to be collected. It’s all part of training to be a Ballymaloe Cookery School chef.