Born in Kent, England, Karen Austin learned to cook in restaurants during eight years in Antwerp, starting as a dishwasher and working her way up to commis chef. In 1982 she moved to Ireland and with her partner and now husband Con McLoughlin opened a hostel, then Lettercollum House, a restaurant in Timoleague in West Cork, Ireland. Since 2004 with Con she grows fruit and vegetables used to make sweet and savoury tarts, pizzas, breads, cakes and seasonal treats at The Lettercollum Kitchen Project in Clonakilty. She runs cookery classes and occasionally takes groups on trips to cook in Spain and France. She has two sons and a daughter, a dog and a demanding acre of walled garden.