John and Ellmary married in 1976 and returned to Ireland to start Island Cottage, Heir Island, in 1989. Our idea was simple, in fact so simple it was hard to explain, now 33 years later, thankfully, we don’t need to do too much explaining. Island Cottage is both our home and business. It has grown over time to encompass an art gallery, and an artist/writers retreat (to be completed). 

John Desmond

JohnIn 1971, John left Ireland to spend three years as Assistant Food and Beverage Manager in the Bristol Kempinski in Berlin. He then moved to Paris where he trained as a chef in the Ritz Hotel and the famous Taillevent restaurant.

He continued to work in well known restaurants before his appointment as Professor de Cuisine at the renowned École de Cuisine La Varenne Paris. At the same time, John developed his own cooking school business and an international dinner party service.

He has written Ma Cuisine, his own series of cookery books and designed a kitchen scraper. In 2009 he received a BA (Hons) in Visual Art from the Dublin Institute of Technology. 

Ellmary Fenton

EllmaryIn 1971, following a two year hotel management training course, Ellmary worked at The Great Southern Hotel Kenmare (now known as the Park Hotel). She then went on to work in hotels and restaurants throughout Europe and the United States.

In 1984, Ellmary graduated with a degree in French and Italian from University College Cork and followed this a year later with a Higher Diploma in Education. On her return to Paris, she was appointed manager of the Obelisque restaurant in the prestigious Hôtel de Crillon.