About Joanna

Hello! I’m a chef & life coach cooking at retreats and workshops.


For your retreat I create bespoke menus with delicious, wholesome food that reflects the season, location and spirit of the gathering, a relaxed kitchen where guests can get involved in cooking, learn new skills and participate in creating the meal.

My approach to cooking is simple, food is a pleasure and should be enjoyed without guilt or worry. A healthy meal is one that you have cooked for yourself with care and attention.

When we’re cooking we unwind and relax. After sitting at a desk all day, it’s a chance to use our hands and create something from scratch. Our brains switch off - peeling, slicing & stirring, seeing an ingredient change form under heat forces us to be in the moment. It feeds us in more than a physical way.

Few things make as much sense to me as cooking the ingredients that fuel and pleasure us. Nothing else grounds me as cooking does - it makes me happy.
— Rory O’Connell, Teacher, Ballymaloe Cookery School

My idea of mindful cooking and eating is that we are minding ourselves and others when we take the time and effort to cook a meal. Eating what we love is calming, and makes us feel happy and restored, comfort food at it’s best.

We crave the nourishment and comfort that comes from great food, cooked with love. 

Read on for my story which started in my family kitchen...


The Backstory...

My birthday in 2014 at Sonoma wineries.

My birthday in 2014 at Sonoma wineries.

Cooking can be a chore, the last task at the end of a long day.  It certainly was for me.  After moving from Dublin to work for Google in San Francisco, most days started and ended with a long commute. In the evenings the kitchen was bypassed in favour of pitta chips and wine on the couch.

It wasn’t always like that. Growing up, Saturday afternoons were spent in the kitchen learning to cook my Dad's dishes, usually an Italian dish in the oven with the smell of onions, garlic, tomatoes slow cooking filling the house.

Working in the family food business at weekends and summer holidays deepened my connection to food and cooking.

Living in San Francisco was food heaven. The farmer’s markets at the Ferry Plaza with the best of the Bay Area’s farm produce, chowder in a breadbowl at the Pier, burritos in the Mission, Italian gelato in North Beach, the wineries in Sonoma.

“If I'm taking your picture at least hold your knife in the right place” - my teacher to me on my first day at Ballymaloe, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

“If I'm taking your picture at least hold your knife in the right place” - my teacher to me on my first day at Ballymaloe, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

While I made the most of my time there, by 2014 I was burnt out in my finance role at Google and in need of a change of direction. I was working long days and missing home. I needed to slow down and take better care of myself,  buy good food, get back to cooking and get my hands dirty in the kitchen.

I had a notebook with recipes I had written down over the years, with oil stains and scribbled notes, which I decided to turn into a blog. I started to spend more time food shopping, cooking and photographing the results. Cooking and blogging brought me back to myself, and woke me up to the life that I really wanted to live. I loved it.

After two years in San Francisco it was time to make a decision, to stay with the company or move home and take the opportunity to start something new. Deep down I knew what was right for me. As my boss at the time wisely said “if you don’t take a leap you never know how far you will land”. Six months later I was back home in Ireland, on the way to Cork to start the 3-month course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.  

Leaving my beautiful apartment in San Francisco to move back with my parents in my 30s was distinctly unglamorous, but quitting my job to take a risk and do what I love was the best thing I’ve ever done.

With Darina Allen at Ballymaloe.

With Darina Allen at Ballymaloe.

I had no plan beyond Ballymaloe. I was open to doing something completely new and wanted to see what would come my way. Since completing the course in December 2014 I’ve said yes to a range of opportunities: private chef work in France, catering for events and parties and cooking at retreats in Ireland and abroad.

Starting a new career is exciting but also comes with uncertainty and self doubt. I’ve learned to listen to my instincts, trust myself and enjoy the adventure.

Martha Beck, who I completed my Life Coach training with, says it better than I can…

If following your heart’s desire seems crazy but not following it is becoming more and more difficult with every passing week or month or year, your choices come down to taking a leap of faith or living with the regret of never having tried. Wouldn’t you rather jump?
— Martha Beck

Kind Words

Testimonial by Susan Hyatt for Joanna Bourke | The Chopping Board

"Joanna Bourke isn't just a chef, she is a magician who uses food to deeply nourish her clients. Joanna prepared my retreat menu with love and care and delivered masterpieces at each meal. Thank you Joanna for being so amazing."
Susan Hyatt, Life Coach, Entrepreneur


Testimpnoal by Peg Kusner for Joanna Bourke | The Chopping Board

"Joanna Bourke is a powerful blend of talented chef, food artist, and warm-hearted therapist. If you ever have the opportunity to work with her, do it!"
Peg Kusner, Peg Kusner Design


Testimonial by Gemma Deeney for Joanna Bourke | The Chopping Board

"Thanks so much Joanna for the amazing food, excellent service and impeccable taste at our Monalea Yoga & Wellbeing Retreat - it wouldn't have been the magical weekend that it was without you!”
Gemma Deeney, The Yoga Gym


Testimonial by Sas Petherick for Joanna Bourke | The Chopping Board

"Joanna catered my retreat in England for 16 women. She brought so much thought, attention and care to the whole experience - our Retreat participants fell in love with her JoFlow! Running a kitchen that is at the heart of a big house, is no small feat. Over the four days, Joanna played a vital role in ensuring everyone was nourished, cared for and able to enjoy food that loved them back. This meant they could relax into the deep and important work of the retreat. I can’t recommend Jo enough and I’ve already booked her services for next year’s Sacred Rascals!"
Sas Petherick, Coach & Mentor