Darina Allen runs the internationally renowned Ballymaloe Cooking School at Shanagarry, in County Cork, Ireland. The school—situated on an organically run farm which Allen built and cultivates herself—is just one of many Ballymaloe enterprises owned and operated by four generations of the Allen family. A chef and instructor at the school, Allen is also author to numerous cookbooks, most focusing on Irish cuisine. The feather in her cookbook author’s cap came in 2003, when Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook received a nomination for best international cookbook from the James Beard Foundation in 2003. Her highly acclaimed Irish Traditional Cooking was published in l995 and won the Langhe Ceretto prize in l996. She also authored the highly successful (now out of print) Simply Delicious series, which included volumes by ingredient or event, such as Simply Delicious Fish, Simply Delicious Vegetables, Simply Delicious Food for Family and Friends, Simply Delicious in France and Italy, and A Simply Delicious Christmas.
But Allen is less about recognition than outreach, whether in cookbooks, journalism, television, or culinary social activism. And she’s a culinary celebrity in Ireland, not just for starring in multiple cooking shows and series. She’s a member of the Taste Council of Irish Food Board, Chair of Artisan Food Forum of Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Food Safety Consultative Council of Ireland, Trustee of Irish Organic Centre, and a patron of Irish Seedsavers. She also belongs to the International Association of Cooking Professionals, Euro-Toques, the Irish Food Writer's Guild and the Guild of Food Writers in Britain. (Allen won the Gilbeys of Ireland Gold Medal of Excellence in 1991 with Myrtle Allen for her contribution to the Irish catering and hospitality industry.)
She is a member of the Consumer Foods and Ingredients Board of An Bord Bia and is on the Board of the Organic Centre. She has appeared on several American television programs, including Good Morning America, and has presented Irish feasts to heads of state such as President Bill Clinton in 1995. In 2005, Allen received the Cooking Teacher of the Year Award from IACP, a crowning achievement in an extremely generous career. This win came on top of an Honorary Degree from University of Ulster which Allen received in 2003, the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year in 2001, Waterford the Wedgwood Hospitality Award 2000, and more (many more) awards and accolades.
Tireless advocate of farm-to-table, Allen is also the founder of the first farmers markets in Ireland and is involved on an ongoing basis in helping set up new markets. She is personally the chair of the Midleton Farmers Market, as well as councillor for Ireland in the Slow Food Movement and President of East Cork Convivium of Slow Food.