Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Ali Dunworth, Food Writer & Consultant
Who is Ali Dunworth, I hear you ask.
Ali Dunworth is a one-woman event whipping-uppy lean mean exceptionally efficient machine. She is an accomplished food writer and like Jillian Bolger, Caitriona Redmond and Katy McGuinness, she is a member of the Irish Food Writers Guild.
We are fond of a food festival in Ireland, and I can’t think of one that Ali Dunworth hasn’t worked on, in one capacity or another. She is an Irish food cheer-leader and her enthusiasm for great food is catching.
I know that Ali is currently planning her 2020 food festivals and she is forever looking for chefs and food producers to collaborate with so do get in touch with her. She’s on all the usual social media platforms.
I’m talking to women in the Irish food industry. How did your career path bring you here?
My career path has had many twists and turns, but food has always been a constant. I studied journalism in Dublin, then London while I worked in restaurants, bars, hotels. I got into food TV when I graduated and had some very fun years in London cooking a lot, working with many of my food heroes and eating very well. Then there was a stint of travel and Australia where I opened an artisan butcher before coming back to Ireland where worked in TV again, cooked a bit and set about getting to know the industry here. I’m now a freelancer combining event curation & food festival booking, food writing, consulting and anything else that comes my way.
How does your career fulfill you?
Along with food, telling stories has always been a constant whether it’s TV, writing, booking festivals, events or cooking. I get the chance to tell food stories and give hard-working food growers, producers, cooks, campaigners a platform. That’s really fulfilling, spreading the word about great people.
What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Ali Dunworth?
As a freelancer work is constant goal setting and ambition, I feel like I’m always chasing the next thing. Every time I’m out and about, eating, traveling, I’m researching which is basically working. So often my main ambition is to balance my ‘off’ time. I’ve always dipped in and out of fiction writing but only recently started delving into some courses and classes. I find that helps me switch off from ‘the day job’.
In your opinion, what challenges do women face in the food industry in Ireland?
Right now, I see so many people leaving the industry because there are not enough sustainable jobs that can work with life balance, especially family life. It is the same working in TV. They are industries that once you hit 30 you more than likely have to jump ship if you want to have kids. If more business owners realised the value of making roles sustainable and appealing to parents and people with young families, you could have those employees for life. They will respect you, work for you and stay with you. We need to make more jobs for longevity.
Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspire you and why?
I’m surrounded by supportive and inspirational women in this industry, it’s one of the best things about it. The doyenne of them all is Darina Allen. Not only does she know everything, she also says what she thinks no matter what. And she encourages us all. You feel you could ask her for help no matter what.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland?
I look forward to a time when I’m planning an article or booking an event and it’s easy for me to be gender-balanced. It’s not at the moment. I often struggle to find female voices and that’s a problem. We need more chefs full stop, but we also need more women visible, then maybe it would appeal more to women. People in positions like me need to have a responsibility to represent women in the industry even if it’s hard, keep asking, keep looking. Give women chances.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
As I said, I’m always chasing the next thing so luckily there have been plenty of proud moments. My first job in TV, washing the dishes on Saturday Kitchen, my first live talk/ interview at Ballymaloe Lit Fest a few years ago where I interviewed chef Matt Tebbutt and people showed up and laughed when I landed the front page of The Irish Times magazine for a piece I wrote about pubs. That was a real wow moment. To be honest I feel proud and relieved every time something goes right!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Learn to drive. It’s the one thing I’ve still not gotten around to. I should have done it when I was young and fearless.
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
A certain frippery or foolishness I think. There is no certainty to what I do, so you have to be a bit mad to keep going without any safety net. That doesn’t suit a lot of people. Perseverance is key. You also have to like people. And always be prepared to get your hands dirty. I’ve never had a job where mopping the floor hasn’t been one of the variables.
What do you eat when you’re feeling poorly?
Tea and toast. Lots and lots of tea and hot toast with butter. A boiled egg mashed up is great comfort also, that to be honest, I eat most days.