My Weekend: 'There is something about the sea that just makes me feel completely nourished mentally'

Clara Cooney, owner of Clara Cooks, turned her passion for food into her career and gives cooking classes in people’s own homes, and will also prepare dinner parties for them and show them how to arrange the kitchen
My Weekend: 'There is something about the sea that just makes me feel completely nourished mentally'

Clara Cooney of Clara Cooks.

Tell us about yourself:

I was born and raised in Cork. I moved to Dublin in my early 20s and started my career in HR/recruitment.

I went on to live in New Zealand for a few years and then on to Australia, for a further eight years, giving me dual citizenship, which has its perks. After returning back to Ireland, seven years ago, I continued my career in HR and had amazing opportunities, travelling around the globe.

However, my passion has always been around food. I adored cooking and was lucky to come from a family of foodies and was taught from a very young age how to cook and use some of the amazing local produce available to us. In 2019, after many years of deliberation, I decided to take a leap of faith, quit corporate life, and start my own business, which is all about educating and inspiring people about food and cooking. I firstly did the 12-week intensive course at Ballymaloe and then had the opportunity to stay on there for a while and experience life as a teacher.

Last year, I went out on my own and started to do private classes in people’s homes, reorganising your kitchen, private cheffing for small, intimate dinner parties, food-walking tours in Cork, some podcasting (called Cork Food Stories), where I talk to the wonderful producers and suppliers in Cork, and also writing food articles and recipes for a local paper.

It’s been up and down with the year we have had, but I’m still doing my podcasts and doing classes online and I cannot wait to be back in people’s kitchens, cooking for them and teaching them how to be amazing home cooks. My website is You can find out all about my business there and, also, there are some delicious recipes that I have for you to try.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

Even though cooking is my business, I adore entertaining. The best part of having family and friends around is the satisfaction you get when everyone loves the food you put in front of them. Food, to me, connects people, brings people together. However, don’t get me wrong, I love a good restaurant, getting served up beautiful food and a nice glass of wine. I also love live music: Whether in a large music venue or a local bar, you can’t beat a live act.

Lie-ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

Nearly always up early: Starting with a nice coffee, and then some exercise, sets me up perfectly for the day. Now, it’s not always like that, but if I lie in, I feel guilty, so getting up early works best for me.

Clara Cooney.
Clara Cooney.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

All the time. My business is more or less seven days a week, but I manage that by having balance, so some of my midweek days might be quieter for me, allowing me to get my R& R. I also make sure I get out for a walk every day. The great thing about being a small-business owner is that you have full control of how and when you work and when you take time out.

If money was no object, where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

After watching Emily in Paris last year, my mum and three sisters all said we would love a girls’ weekend in Paris together. From the clothes to the food to the beautiful architecture, it would be gorgeous to be a Parisian for a weekend and to take a well-earned break for us all.

Closer to home, is there someplace you like to head to recharge the batteries?

I love the water, walking near it, hearing the sound, and the occasional dip in the sea. I was brought up in Monkstown and then lived in Myrtleville for a few years, after coming home from Australia. I spent the last few summers in West Cork. There is something about the sea that just makes me feel completely nourished mentally and with the Irish landscape to go with it.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

Absolutely. I think family and a few close friends are so important in life. I can’t wait to be out with them again, laughing and chatting over nice food and a few drinks.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

I’ve tried so many things over the years. Honestly, as cliché as it sounds, I love to travel: That is somewhat a hobby, isn’t it? I love new cultures, exploring new cities, and, of course, new cuisines. I do some exercise most days — not sure if we can call that a hobby, but I do enjoy it — and long walks in coastal areas is another one I love. I’d love to learn the piano, but I’ve never got around to it.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter, do you have a signature dish?

I’m definitely an entertainer, but I do also like to be entertained. It’s so funny, as so many people ask me what my favourite dish is and, honestly, it’s hard to pick one. When you’re in the business of food, you make so many delicious dishes that if you’re making anything with love from good produce, then it’s going to be fabulous. Just be assured: If you ever get the chance to come to my house for dinner, it’s going to be a good one.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork. Where are your go-to spots for coffee/lunch/special meal?

I love Filter for my coffee. The choice of coffee is amazing there and the guys are so helpful and friendly; they also do a number of different types of coffee blends for you to take home and enjoy.

I love Good Day Deli for lunch; they are at the Nano Nagle Place in Cork City. Not only is the setting so beautiful, but they serve deliciously fresh, organic local food. Restaurants are all about the mood; we have so many to choose from in Cork, which makes us very lucky.

Outside of Cork, I am dying to try Aimsir, as a treat. That will be one of my definites when we can travel freely around the country again.

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

Sunday night is all about food prep for me: I’d be writing out the food plan for the week, writing recipes, and putting the shopping list together, making pestos with the herbs left in the fridge, making hummus and healthy sweet treats, like energy balls or oat bars. It sets me up great for the week.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

I don’t set an alarm clock. I used to, but not since I left corporate life. I wake every morning between 6.30 and 7.30.

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