Tara Wigley Interview on Ballymaloe Cookery School


My name’s Tara Wigley. I did the Ballymaloe 12-week
course in 2010, at Easter time. I had twins with me who were 18 months old
– also though a great big dog called Andy. And I turned up on the course slightly
thinking that everyone else would have… children and dogs and… It was full of footloose
and fancy-free 18-year-olds and then people who were in their 50s, 60s,
equally footloose and fancy-free. But being Ireland,
it wasn’t a problem. I just found someone in Ballycotton
who would look after these twins. She had this great big fish tank, which I think they just sat
in front of for three months, looking at the fish
going round and round, and then they found a hurling stick,
and off they went. After the course, after about six months,
I went for an interview at the NOPI Ottolenghi restaurant,
which was just newly opened. And I had a really lovely chat
with Sarit Packer… who’s… Honey & Co. fame… who’s done some great
demos at Ballymaloe, and she just said to me, ‘What are you doing? I just don’t see how you’re
trying to make this work. If you look around kitchens,
there are not many other young mums.’ And I thought,
‘Cripes, whatamI doing?’ Because I’d retrained.
I’d left my career in publishing to sort of take this jump
into Ballymaloe world. So then I went off by myself, and I was
filling up people’s fridges and freezers for a few months in North London,
thinking, ‘Is this going to work out?’ With Darina’s voice in my head saying,
‘You can do it. It’s OK. Just jump in!’ And then I got a call
out the blue one day. And I normally never pick up my phone,
I’ve got real phone-o-phobia. I did pick it up,
and it was this guy saying, ‘Hi, it’s Yotam Ottolenghi. I’ve heard that you’ve got background
in writing and editing and words, but you’ve also got interest in food,
and you’re a cook, but you’re not a professional chef. I’m looking for someone
who’s got all these skills, someone who’s not a professional chef
– and not even a professional writer – but someone slightly falling
between all these worlds.’ And I thought it was my husband
pretending to be Yotam, because he was mycompletehero. I was like, ‘Chris, what are you doing?
Why are you even phoning me?’ ‘Is this Yotam Ottolenghi?’
And that was, sort of… that was it. That was the Thursday, and then
I turned up at his door on the Monday. And we were currently working
out of his flat in Notting Hill. So it was just me and him
in this soft of intimate space. My husband was very happy
that he was married to a man. And we did that for about a year or two,
working on just the Guardian columns. And I would drive his
electric car off to Westfield, which was the most
nerve-racking part of the job. Then we’d come back
and chop and cook. And he’d be at his desk
– or his big sort of kitchen table – and then every time I was ready with
all my kind ofmise en placein place, he would jump up and then we would
taste it and test it and then do it again. And I would write it up
and then cycle home, thinking,
‘Is this a dream?!’ And then I went off and had Casper,
my third kid, and then came back. And by the time
I came back a year later, we’d moved into a bit
more of a professional setup in a test kitchen in Camden. And then we were working
as a team onPlenty More, and then we did
theNOPIcookbook, And then we didSWEET,
full of sweet things,SIMPLE, which was massive, then… I’ve just finally got my own name
on the spine of a book, which is… a massive moment and a
compete dream come true. If someone had told me at Ballymaloe
that my name would be on a spine, reflecting, sort of,
Yotam’s name on it… You’ve gotJerusalemwith
Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi, and then you’ve gotFalastin, which is the
Palestinian sister book toJerusalem, and it says Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley,
and it’s, it’s mad. It was just amazing. I’d never, ever come across people
with such passion for produce. I’d never come across
someone like Darina Allen, this force of nature
who just didn’t stop. I’d just never met
anyone like her. I’d never, ever tasted rocket
like the rocket I ate on the way back to my little flat
from the cookery school at the end of the day. It just blew my mind. My advice is just to turn up and
take it all in and not have a plan and just be receptive to everything. Yeah, and not have a clear plan
about what’s going to happen. And then also cut yourself some slack
when you finish the course, because you’ll shoot in all directions
and get balls rolling, because you’ve spent a lot of money,
there’s a lot at stake. You know, this isreal. And you get out of the bubble and then
you come back to your little world. But just trust, just trust,
just trust in the force of… Darina Allen…
and all things Ballymaloe.

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