Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Deirdre Doyle, Educator
Deirdre Doyle created and runs The Cool Food School, a business with healthy eating and food education at its heart.
Much like Roisin, Deirdre Doyle wants to take the hassle out of feeding kids. What I’m particularly happy to see in this interview is her desire to be at the top of her game. She makes no excuses for her personal ambition and I want to see more of that.
I’m talking to women the Irish food industry. How did your career path bring you here?
I started out at GMIT where I studied Hotel and Catering Management in the 1980’s. This is where I developed a real love for good food. I worked in restaurants around the world until I returned to Ireland and had a complete change of direction, working in the charities sector for many years.
I still had an appreciation for good food and when I had my own children I tried to feed them as best I could, breastfeeding, cooking from scratch etc. But once they started in primary school, I started to see what other children were eating, I watched a lot of Jamie Oliver programmes and did a lot of research about childhood obesity and everything I saw was depressing. I decided to retrain as a Health Coach with the IINH and this further opened my eyes to the importance of food for our health. I set up my business in 2018 with the goal of teaching children about food in a fun, interactive way so that I can, in some small way, effect change.
How does your career fulfil you?
Every time a child tastes something they have never tasted before, I get a huge thrill! Every time I get a message from a parent, telling me how delighted their kids are to use the kiddies food kutter or safety food peeler, I also get a thrill. I know I am doing the right thing – it took me a long time to find my passion and now that I have, I am going for it!
What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Deirdre Doyle?
I want to be the “go to” person for food education in Ireland. I want to expand the workshops I do to other parts of the country and continue sourcing cool stuff to help frazzled parents with feeding their children.
In your opinions, what challenges women face in the food industry in Ireland?
I think the challenge for women in all workplaces is the issue of having children. They often leave the workplace because the cost of childcare is so high and if they remain at work, they have the added stress of sorting out childcare as well as pretty much every other thing to do with the kids. This makes it really hard for women to progress in any workplace situation nd especially in the food service industry where the hours can be long and unsociable.
Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspire you and why?
Well it has to be Darina Allen, icon of the Irish food industry. I love her no nonsense approach and her work in food education with children.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland?
I think changes need to be made to make it a more family friendly environment thus enabling women to remain longer in the industry and helping to raise their visibility.
I’m not quite sure how you’d do that though!
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
I am very excited to have been selected as an Ambassador for the upcoming Food on the Edge event with JP McMahon because of the work I am doing in food education. I was also delighted to be interviewed by Alison Curtis of Today FM last year. Otherwise, it is the simple things like schools who ask me to come back again or parents who follow me on social media and message me about something I’ve posted about that has helped them feed their children better – these are the things that really make me proud.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Find something you believe in and just go for it. Also, don’t worry too much about what other people think about you – although sometimes you need the gift of age and wisdom to
be able to live this!
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
I need to be able to work with children and engage them in the workshops I teach. I also need to be personable and build a rapport
with schools and parents I work with. I also need to know what I’m talking about – I am careful about the advice I give out!
What is a good tip for parents with fussy eaters?
I always like to share the “Divison of Responsibility’ strategy with parents. Developed by Ellyn Satter, an American feeding specialist, it says that the parent’s responsibility is
to provide the food and it is the child’s responsibility to eat it. i.e. – it is not the parent’s responsibility to cajole, bribe, threaten the kids to eat, simple to decide when, where and what to
feed the child. The child then decides what and how much he will eat.