Ozarka Goes to School Chapter 1: Ballymaloe Who?

In order for Ozarka to open, we need funding. And to get funding, we need investors.  Investors love Ozarka, and everyone says that investors invest in the entrepreneur more than the business.  But they all find a shield against my charm offensive on a single, ever so pedantic little observation: “You don’t know anything about food retail.”

Investors, advisers, and friends wiser than I keep coming back to this chink in the chain we’re climbing toward getting Ozarka open.

Ok then, where do I get food retail experience? My new friend Damien, an experienced chef and bottomless pool of industry tall tales, said that on-the-job experience is best, but in lieu of that, get thyself to the Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland.

Ballymaloe? Never heard of it.  Which is the first indication that I know almost nothing about this industry. It’s a culinary school founded decades ago by Rory O’Connell and his sister Darina Allen—known widely as the Julia Child of Ireland, or perhaps the Alice Waters of Ireland, take your pick.  It’s located on the farm founded by Myrtle Allen, who was pontificating the value of local and organic/biological at a time when most people would look at her feet to see if she was wearing socks with sandals.  Again decades later, these issues have become mainstream.

I signed up for the two-week immersion course entitled “The Business of Food.” It was to be taught by Blathnaid Bergin (One of those lovely Irish names. It’s pronounced “blahnet” rhymes with “bonnet.”)  who is an expert in restaurant and hotel management, and later I was to discover, Darina’s sister. Ah, really a family business this is. But more on that later.


This is me. Learning stuff.

Photo credit: Anne O’Sullivan

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