Myrtle Allen's rich legacy is an Irish food dynasty

Darina, Myrtle and Rachel Allen

By Joe Leogue

Myrtle Allen leaves behind an Irish food dynasty, a family name synonymous with an acclaimed restaurant, a cookery school, books, television programmes, and produce.

In the 1960s, she hired Darina O’Connell for the position of sous-chef at Ballymaloe House, with her understudy going on to marry Myrtle’s son Tim and assuming the role of heir apparent to Myrtle’s title as Queen of Cooking.

She established the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, and became a TV chef and author.

History would repeat when Rachel O’Neill, who came to study at Ballymaloe Cookery School at 18, went on to work in the kitchen at Ballymaloe House and subsequently teach at the renowned centre.

She married Darina’s son Isaac and became a household name through television programmes and cook books.

Meanwhile, in the 1990s Myrtle’s daughter Yasmin Hyde struck gold with the idea of bringing a beloved Allen recipe into homes across the country. Packaging and selling Myrtle’s recipe for country relish, a new empire was born, and now the Ballymaloe Foods name adorns a range of products in stores across Ireland.

But the Allen influence on the supermarket shelves doesn’t end there. Myrtle’s grandson Cullen Allen paired with Colum O’Sullivan to form Cully and Sully, a company that sought to pair convenience food with artisan quality.

It proved to be a winning recipe and the company was bought by the New York-based Hain Celestial group in April 2012 for an initial fee of some €10m.

However, the Allen name has not always made headlines for the right reasons. In 2003 Tim Allen, Myrtle’s son, pleaded guilty at Midleton District Court to possessing images of child abuse and was fined €40,000 and ordered to do 240 hours of community service by Judge Michael Patwell, a sentence that was widely criticised at the time.

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