Andrew Sweeney's Scoop cookbook puts food in the frame for a new school in Cambodia

Andrew Sweeney tells Alan O’Riordan how his idea to combine art with culinary pursuits will help build a school in Cambodia

THE Celtic Tiger has a disputed legacy, to say the least, but the democratisation of good food and visual arts are two of perhaps the happiest and most abiding ones. Now, Andrew Sweeney has taken the logical step of combining these two obsessions in a new kind of cookbook — one written and illustrated by professional artists.

Sweeney is the founder of the charity Scoop (Supporting Children Out of Poverty), a charity that stems from his postgraduate globetrotting.

“I saw a serious amount of poverty in Guatemala and Nicaragua,” he recalls. “Then, by the time I got to Cambodia I was in full-blown conscience mode about it. I got to know a school and I loved what they were doing. So, when I was leaving I said, look, I can’t give you anything now, but when I get back home I’ll run a gig for you.”

Sweeney made €3,500 from the gig. “We built new classrooms, a new kitchen. It was the start of something,” he says.

Contribution by Gordon Harris to the food-art book and auction in aid of the Scoop charity.
Contribution by Gordon Harris to the food-art book and auction in aid of the Scoop charity.

Sweeney continued running quiz nights and gigs, before holding the first of six annual art auctions, in 2009. “I realised there was a bit of a gap in the market for a young-person-driven charity. I found that the bigger guys were a little hard to crack. I went to a conference in the Mansion House called A Career in Development and about two and half thousand development studies graduates were there... but long story short, there wasn’t really a lot of opportunities for these kids. I felt sorry for them.

“But I knew this school in Cambodia that could use development-minded people and that’s when the idea for the charity came about. We began sending over volunteers, we began looking for donations, so I thought we’d better come up with a name, and my mum thought of Scoop.”

Scoop has only this year become a registered charity, and has so far been sustained entirely by volunteers and interns. No one, including himself, Sweeney says, “has ever been paid in Scoop.”

This year’s art auction will be held on September 30 in the Third Space in Smithfield. On sale are 33 works featured in the book, and 67 more on display in the nearby Light House Cinema. No reserve applies to any of the works.

Contribution by Ruthie Ashenhurst to the food-art book and auction in aid of the Scoop charity.
Contribution by Ruthie Ashenhurst to the food-art book and auction in aid of the Scoop charity.

“I wanted to do the cookbook to give the auction more publicity, a wider reach. Over the last few years, we’ve been reaching out for support to art collectors, but look how food has exploded, it’s so popular. The combination of art, charity, food... that was appealing. Some of the artists we asked came back and said I’m not that into food, but by and large there was a common correlation between creativity in the studio and creativity in the kitchen. You can tell that from the cookbook. They go hand in hand. Some of the recipes are so creative, so original.”

The recipes have all been fine tuned by Ciaran Crawford, the Barcelona-based chef responsible for the world’s most wonderfully named cookbook, The Evolution of the Ciaran Crawford Action Figure Doll.

They range from a stracciatella soup by David Uda, to a fruit pizza by Denise Cassidy; from a tagine by Kate Beagan, to , an anchovy and walnut linguini by Syra Larkin, There’s nothing too dauntingly “chefy” about them. And, apart from the occasional salad, Sweeney identifies the abiding theme as “death-row recipes”.

“I think the artists were thinking in terms of a last meal,” he says. “So, if you were to cook the 33 of them, you might be on Weight Watchers. It is special occasion food. We’re hoping to make it a Christmas present.”

See for details of the Scoop auction and cookbook

Clockwise from above, contributions by Gordon Harris, Ruthie Ashenhurst and Colm MacAthlaoich to the food-art book and auction in aid of the Scoop charity.


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