Food Academy

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May's & Kay's Kitchen

I felt very honoured to be accepted into the 2023 Food Academy programme and it now gives me great pleasure to commit my journey from there to here in this assignment. 

I was born under the shadows of the Galtee mountains in Tipperary over forty years ago. When I was nine my father was asked by CIE to go to Mozambique in southern Africa to rebuild the Limpopo railway line, and our family got to experience life in that part of Africa. 

My interest in baking was fostered by my grandmother & mother. While living in Africa this interest became all absorbing and I quickly learned the art of having a plan B when ingredients couldn’t be located or the oven let me down. I was known for being a very creative cook and baker and the skill of improvisation was laudable! 

I was determined to qualify as a chef all through Secondary School and excelled in all the science subjects when the Leaving Cert results surfaced in 1995. That summer saw me working in the Conrad International Hotel on Earlsfort Terrace where I got the opportunity to help out with cooking and planning menus for children. The following September I enrolled in DIT Cathal Brugha Street and continued working in the Conrad Hotel. Four years later I qualified as a chef and was very fortunate in acquiring a position in the prestigious Peacock Alley which sported a Michelin Star. I felt very honoured to be working under celebrity chef Conrad Gallagher. Life was good and from here it took an even better turn. A chef named Shane worked there and a working relationship evolved, romance and a long courtship progressed to us now being husband and wife. 

The travel bug raised its appealing head and travelling around Asia, Australia and New Zealand opened up new horizons, exotic culinary experiences and a very broad, cultural and knowledgeable way of life which has endeared us to the world of cuisine, sustenance and moveable feasts. We worked on a private yacht based in Queensland for six years cooking at a very high level for people with different backgrounds and tastes, and ensuring to remain calm when ingredients could topple over and reach the seas! We both loved the adventure and valued the experience gained. Vanuatu, Bali, new Caledonia, Hawaii are just a few of the places which left lasting impressions and salivating flavours … 

Once again life took another turn when hankering for home and laying down Irish roots became the focus. In 2007 we tied the knot and three children followed later. We both continued working in the catering industry and in 2015 our very charming world almost fell apart. Our one and only precious little girl, Katie Mai took ill at the age of three and was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. I spent two years at her bedside in Crumlin hospital yearning for her recovery. Meanwhile, my husband Shane who was heavily burdened with two of us so unexpectedly and intolerably away from home opened a cafe in Clonmel and called it Mai's Cafe after our daughter.  Three years after Katie Mai’s recovery I worked alongside my husband building up this business and tirelessly adding to the menus and dining experiences of the customers.  But the ugly head of  Covid made it all unsustainable and hence a decision last year to close after six years in operation had to be made. Donning our thinking caps and our creativity opening the Horsebox in Cahir Farmer’s Market last year was the most favourable and profitable decision. We recognised the health benefits and the need for gluten and wheat-free products. This enterprise is going from strength to strength and all our products are very popular and especially The Achill Island salted caramel brownie, the African-inspired oat & caramel slice with chocolate ganache, and Carrot & Walnut muffin with orange zest buttercream. 

I'm very excited to bring my experience to this year's Food Academy programme. 

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