Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An exciting new event for Dublin's foodies

Have you heard about the Cookbook Club? I hadn't until I saw it mentioned in The Sunday Times' Style section a few weeks back but I was instantly intrigued. If you're a foodie, you are sure to be too.

Its founder, Elaine Walsh, recently told me what it was all about:

"Everyone seems to like the ethos and quirkiness of the club," she says. "An in-house chef interprets a menu adapted from a cookbook and cooks that menu for 120 people. It's a challenge for them to interpret the recipes but then that's what we all do at home with cookbooks, isn't it? With the club, you get to eat the lovely dishes in the pictures but someone else has cooked them and you don't have to do the washing up!"

To make it even more interesting, the chef/author of the cookbook is also present on the night. They introduce the menu and I'm sure they also make the in-house chef feel nervous about doing their recipes justice!

The Cookbook Club meets on the first Monday of every month and next Monday, the chefs at Ely Bar and Brasserie will be cooking what they consider to be some of Clodagh McKenna's best dishes. Diners will have a choice of three starters, three main courses and three desserts. And most excitingly of all, I'm going to be there to sample them!

I love the story of what inspired Elaine to start this club. It's a story that combines everything that makes food so important: family, bringing people together, the conviviality of preparing food and the enjoyment there is in sharing the pleasure of a meal.

Here's how Elaine explains it:
"There are two things," she says. "I'm from a farm in West Clare but I hated it. I hated weeding, minding the cattle and cutting the turf. But I did like the preparation of our own homegrown food. My mum and grandmother used to dissect recipes they scoured from 'Woman's Way' magazines and old domestic science books to find something 'cordon bleu-y' to do with the same old mutton or turnip or we'd all die of boredom. They'd be cleavering meat and chopping vegetables, gossiping all the while. I'd be sitting eavesdropping on the stairs and I think that's why I associate food preparation and family gossip and get-togethers with cookbook narratives. I want to know the story behind the dish."

Elaine is also writing a cookbook of her own, which has its very own story. "It's about five real-life sisters who were all taught to cook by their extraordinary mother," she explains. "That book won't be released until next year but while I was studying the cookbook market, I started to think about organising big social get-togethers for groups of friends and family."

That's how the idea was born and the club has met twice so far. In September, the chefs of the Town Bar and Grill interpreted the recipes of Paul Flynn from The Tannery and in October those of Catherine Fulvio. Elaine was thrilled with both events .

"There's such conviviality and fun," she says. "Some people use it as a chance to catch up but it's also great to bring people together and to see strangers make friends. I've even had two romances come out of it. At one occasion, two cousins who hadn't seen each other in over 30 years because of a family row happened to be sitting together. It was so emotional to see them reconnect."

She is now planning to bring her cookbook club to other parts of Ireland and maybe even further afield. Future events are being organised for Cork, Belfast and Galway.

I don't know if there are any more tickets available for Monday but if you're interested, the cost is €35 and more information can be found here:

In the meantime, I'm going along on Monday and I'll post a review to let you know how it goes.


  1. Luving your blog, hope you have a great evening at the cookbook club unfort this is the first one that i've missed :( Elaine is an absolute doat. Just wondering if you'd consider voting for me on cheffactor. Thanks Vick

  2. Vick, your cake looks great! I hope you do well in the competition. Wouldn't it be fabulous to win?
    I enjoyed the cookbook club and Elaine was super friendly.
    Good luck with Chef Factor.