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Myrtle Allen archives to be preserved for research

Myrtle Allen

The late chef Myrtle Allen’s work will be used to teach future generations about environmentally friendly consumption, an Irish university has said after it received her archive from the Allen family.

Allen, who died last year aged 94, was an iconic figure who changed the course of Irish food culture. Her menus included traditional Irish ingredients such as freshly caught mackerel, all of which was sourced sustainably.

The Michelin-star winner’s notes and recipes will be preserved at the university’s Boole Library.

The archive includes journals from the restaurant, daily menus, inherited handwritten family manuscript recipe books, correspondence with producers and chefs, restaurant and hotel reviews, and scrapbooks of traditional recipes send to her by readers of the Irish Farmers Journal.

There are letters of advice to fledgeling chefs, drafts and proofs of her 1977 book, The Ballymaloe Cookbook, and photographs and files that reflect her interest in history, local history, genealogy and travel.

Regina Sexton looking through the archives

Fern Allen, her daughter, said that her family is “delighted” that her “meticulous records” will be preserved and available for research.

In 1975, Allen became the first Irish woman to receive a Michelin star. She founded a restaurant, The Yeats Room, at Ballymaloe House with her vegetable-growing husband, Ivan, and wrote two cookery books.

Her food philosophy was “local, seasonal, organic, flavoursome, sustainable and superbly cooked”.

Regina Sexton, a Food and Culinary Historian at UCC, said that Allen was never “swayed by outside influences” and that her sustainability approach was seen as “counter-productive” at the time but that the culinary world has “now come full-circle”.

“We are honoured to become the guardians of the works of Myrtle Allen whose legacy extends far beyond our borders and across generations. It is fitting that these archives will reside in UCC, in a region that has a deep heritage in the craft and art of food,” said Professor Patrick O’Shea, President of UCC.

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