On Saturday 19th November, the 12 week students ran a pop-up restaurant in Ballymaloe Cookery School, fundraising for Slow Food International. I’m even later writing about this than Darina was in The Irish Examiner!
I decided pretty early on that cooking in the kitchen on the night was not going to be for me, but there were plenty of ways to be involved. I was an intermittent meeting attender (too many cooks and all that), but found myself happily volunteering (or volunteered!) to make gluten-free foccaccia, and assist with hosting before transferring to wash-up/kitchen porter, where James & I hoped to re-create our epic Week 7 partnership.
It was a great and surreal experience! It started with getting out of bed to join my fellow breadmakers in school at the unholy hour of 6.30am (bear in mind that this was a Saturday) .Once we got into the school, that is. With typical east Cork security, Tim had informed my classmate Emma, that if the school was locked, he’d leave the keys on the kitchen dresser for us. There is something very strange about being on lookout while your classmates tip-toe around Darina Allen’s house trying to find a bunch of keys to ‘break in’ to school.
Classmate Suzanne put us all in a good mood with some tunes, and there was a beautiful sunrise visible through the plate glass windows of the Garden Cafe (so mesmerising that I tripped over a rug on my way out to look at it & fell over). I began a dance between books and baking, babysitting my foccaccia while they rose and subsequently baked.
Afternoon rolled around quickly, and it was soon time to transform the Garden Cafe with decorations and table laying. After nine weeks at Ballymaloe, I discovered that my forte actually lies not in cooking, but in napkin folding!
Soon, there were guests arriving, and it was time to mingle with my tray of canapes, while classmates worked hard in the kitchen under the watchful eye of Rory O’Connell. Switching as I did to kitchen porter allowed me to observe the assembly line of my classmate chefs; the counter marked with different stations for each element of the various dishes.
My life became measured in 2 minute cycles, the rumble of the dishwasher, with the following silence a signal that it was time to pull out a tray, dry, stack, and wait for it to start all over again. And thus three hours passed, in fits and starts between courses, rushing to get the starter plates ready again for salad after main course, before the sudden quiet of main course being done, and all hot food having been served. If I didn’t appreciate the bevy of ladies who tackle the daily wash up in the school I sure did after this.
The evening drew to a close with a speech from Darina, a glass of wine for all in the kitchen, and me sitting on a worktop with a plate of risotto, the first food I’d eaten in about 9 hours.
All in all, there are far worse ways to spend a Saturday night than drying the plates with Rory O’Connell. 🙂