Ballymaloe Cookery School is a transformative and empowering place, where a passion for food and a respect of the environment go hand in hand. I was lucky enough to attend the May 2011 Certificate Course and the experience was truly life changing. I spent three months in bliss - waking every morning to the clarity of a lush green country farm, cooking with fresh, organic ingredients, and learning from people who are truly passionate about food. I felt I found a place where I belonged - where nuances in taste and texture were discussed with fervour, and where the first new potatoes, mackerel, peas, rhubarb were a cause for celebration. Ballymaloe was a challenging experience. I took tests for the first time in 20 years, and I worked harder and more focused than I had for a very long time. Sometimes, it was really difficult, but that is part of the growth process.
I learned so much - and in such a holistic way - about how food is grown, picked, milked, made - and I also learned so much about myself. The respect for the ingredients, and where they come from is paramount - and the knowledge of Darina, Rachel, Rory and all the teachers is astounding. They truly immerse themselves in the food that is produced every day, and they create an environment which is safe, supportive and absolutely joyous. My skills as a cook improved immeasurably - but even more so, I grew as a human being, and my soul was allowed to bound forth in pure joy. My life has changed since Ballymaloe - and every day, I see myself echoing the traditions and culture that embraced me in that magical place.