Business as usual for Rachel Allen at annual tea party

Rachel Allen signs one of her cookbooks for Mary Blanchfield from Carrick On Suir, Co Tipperary, at the Kennedy Summer School tea party in the John F Kennedy arboretum, New Ross, Co Wexford. Picture: MAry Browne

By Conor Kane

It was business as usual for Rachel Allen and her husband Isaac as they served up tea and sweet treats for more than 200 fans just days after confirming that their son had been arrested on suspicion of possession of €30,000 worth of cannabis.

The celebrity chef, author, and broadcaster fulfilled a long-standing commitment to co-host the annual Kennedy Afternoon Tea Party at the JFK Arboretum outside New Ross, as part of the Kennedy Summer School, with comedian Brendan Grace.

The tea party is held every year to commemorate the occasion in 1963 when US president John F Kennedy had tea at the Kennedy family’s homestead at nearby Dunganstown.

Also present was Rachel’s husband Isaac — son of Darina Allen and grandson of the late Myrtle Allen — who said that she would not be answering questions about the arrest of their 18-year-old son Joshua.

“We have said what we said, we have issued a statement, we don’t want to comment any more,” he told reporters as the tea party got under way, with Rachel helping to serve tea, cakes, scones, and other bites to the assembled gathering.

“We’re going to carry on regardless.”

Joshua Allen was arrested and later released without charge after gardaí and customs officers raided a house at Shanagarry in Co Cork and found €30,000 worth of herbal cannabis.

In a statement, the family said he had “admitted his guilt immediately and co-operated fully with the gardaí” and that he would be “pleading guilty at the first opportunity” if formally charged after a file is considered by the DPP.

We are absolutely devastated at this turn of events,” the statement said, asking that the legal process be allowed to progress, without interference.

“Our son is 17 years old, has never been in trouble with the gardaí, and has made a huge mistake, which will have profound consequences for him. We do not in any way condone his actions. In fact, we utterly condemn them, but it is not for us to condemn him.”

Ms Allen was formally welcomed to the tea party by former Fianna Fáil TD and chairman of the JFK Trust Sean Connick, who asked the audience for a warm round of applause and a “New Ross welcome in support of Rachel Allen”.

She thanked the gathering for their welcome “on this lovely soft day”, and hoped they enjoyed the fruit cake, vanilla buns, chocolate brownies, scones with jam, lemon cake, and other treats.

Reflecting on her career to date, which has seen her write several cookbooks and appear on numerous television programmes on stations such as RTÉ and BBC, she described Myrtle Allen — who passed away during the summer — as “an amazing lady” who championed Irish food for years and said she “absolutely loved the ethos” of Ballymaloe from when she first attended the world-famous cookery school and food mecca as a student. Her mother-in-law, Darina, was “just an amazing mentor” from the start, she said.

Asked about her views on certain “diets” promoted in the media, she said a balanced diet was important.

“I’m very sceptical of teenagers looking up to and following a lot of people who are saying ‘cut out this, cut out that,’ who aren’t necessarily qualified to suggest it,” she said. “I find that a little bit scary, actually.”

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