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Great British Menu chef Paul Cunningham opens Northern Ireland's first zero waste eatery

Dundrum man unveils his sustainable twist on takeaways with new hot food bar Scopers

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Paul Cunningham at Scopers

Paul Cunningham at Scopers

Paul will base his menu on seasonal and foraged food

Paul will base his menu on seasonal and foraged food

Paul Cunningham outside his hot food bar, Scopers, in his home of Dundrum

Paul Cunningham outside his hot food bar, Scopers, in his home of Dundrum

Paul and his wife Jenny at their new venture Scopers

Paul and his wife Jenny at their new venture Scopers

Paul will source all his ingredients from within a 20-mile radius

Paul will source all his ingredients from within a 20-mile radius

Paul Cunningham at Scopers

Paul Cunningham at Scopers

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Paul Cunningham at Scopers

Northern Ireland’s first ever zero waste and sustainable hot food bar has opened its doors in the seaside village of Dundrum by chef Paul Cunningham.

The Co Down chef made his TV debut during lockdown on the Great British Menu and wowed judges with his passion for foraged and locally sourced ingredients which are integral to his cooking style.

After owning and running a successful high-end restaurant for many years in nearby Newcastle, Paul said that his outlook on how people consume food very much shifted in lockdown and the pandemic inspired him to cook with more of a purpose.

He now hopes to bring this same passion of local ingredients into his latest culinary venture and has opened his first ever eatery with the ethos of using only sustainable and locally sourced foods served in biodegradable containers.

Scopers will offer a range of dishes — including burgers, fish, desserts as well as a vegan option — but the menu will change with the seasons every two weeks, ensuring only the freshest meals will be served up to foodies travelling from near and far to try it out.

Paul (36) said that the name of his new eatery, Scopers, came from a nickname his grandfather had when he was younger.

“I was first introduced to foraging in my hometown of Dundrum by my grandfather Paddy from a young age and he taught me everything I need to know about food — from growing, hunting and foraging as well as the importance of eating seasonally and sustainably.

“He was poor when he was growing up and when he was coming home from school or just out playing with friends, he would politely help himself to any vegetables like turnips growing in people’s gardens he saw on his way.

“An old country name for someone doing this is called a scoper so I thought I would name this place after him!”

The popular chef said that the ethos of wasting no food and using what is available locally will be central to his plan of action going forward.

It is estimated in Northern Ireland that food waste accounts for up to 25% of the contents of non-recycling bins and Paul is hoping that his new takeaway business will help to eliminate this by using entire foods to ensure none is wasted.

“When people buy fish, for example, there is about 40% of it wasted,” he explains.

“People waste the bones, the scales, the head, tail and skin, but when I get fish in, I want to ensure that very little is being put in the bin.

“I want to use all the product, for example, to make stock with the bones or create a tasty snack using fish skin, and I won’t be buying anything out of season, everything — as much as humanly possible — is going to come straight from the source.”

Paul said that reliable suppliers and farmers will be used to help make sure nothing is wasted and he can support as local as possible, sourcing all ingredients within 20 miles of Dundrum.

The bread used for burger baps will also be made by Paul each week from scratch — whether it be brioche baps, Japanese milk bread or focaccia.

The style of cuisine at Scopers will reflect a traditional old-style of cooking which Paul said he was raised on, compared to the usual American diner style of takeaway most eateries are embracing now.

“I will have pies one week, a scotch egg the next as well as barbecued food like fish and burgers using an indoor barbecue I have had installed especially to ensure that unique taste.”

His desserts will also reflect some old school favourites.

“I want to serve up things like jammy dodgers using homemade jam and Jaffa cakes made from foraged sea buckthorn curd from Murlough. These are timeless classics and never go out of style,” says Paul.

“If someone locally has a surplus of apples in their orchard or if a farmer has some vegetables that they can’t get rid of I will happily buy it off them and think of something a bit more creative to cook with so that it doesn’t end up in landfill.

Paul urges that, while he is supportive of a vegan lifestyle and will offer a vegan option in his menu, he believes that “it is not the only way to fix this ongoing problem of food waste.”

“It’s not what you’re eating, it’s where you buy your food and how you source your ingredients. We have so much on offer right on our doorstep there’s no reason why we can’t buy and eat only local,” he says.

“Nowadays we don’t have the time or patience to cook three square meals for our family every day between work and other commitments, so people look to fast food as the only option.

“I want to offer an alternative to people and if I can hit the fast food market and make a change there I think it will help to make people think about what type of food they eat — it’s time for fast food to slow down.”

The Co Down man hopes that his eatery will be one of many across Northern Ireland and beyond in years to come.

Just last year Paul launched Mourne Larder, a series of surprise secret dining nights and pop-up events using local ingredients as well as beer and gin.

He said that this venture will still be running alongside Scopers and will be following the same ethos.

Paul has also started to bring his passion for foraging and eating local to a much younger audience and has started to offer free foraging tours in the local area for schools and higher education colleges.

“Children are the future after all and I may be just one man, but if I can make a difference to the future generations and change their way of thinking, then hopefully that change can be made in wider society to how people view cooking and food waste.”

• If any local growers or farmers would like to get in touch with Paul, you can email him via ScopersDundrum@gmail.com and keep up to date with all the latest menus on Instagram and Facebook by searching the handle @scopersdundrum


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