Sweetwater Center for the Arts is reviving and revitalizing a longtime favorite event with Let Them Cook, a fundraising dinner of signature dishes made by a group of volunteer home chefs.
The event is set for 6 to 9 p.m. April 21 in the center at 200 Broad St., Sewickley.
Let Them Cook is a new take on a long-standing Sweetwater tradition called Let the Men Cook, which was customarily part of Sewickley Light Up Night festivities.
The meal will offer guests a culinary tour of cuisines from around the country and the world, with the bonus of a one-of-a-kind bowl handmade by one of the center’s ceramics instructors to take home.
Among the chefs is longtime Sweetwater board member Wayne Murphy of Sewickley, who will serve Moroccan lamb stew, a dinner favorite from past events.
“People say, ‘Is Murphy’s stew gonna be there this year?’ So I say, OK, and I make it,” he said. “I’ve been making it for six or seven years and it never fails to sell out — and I make a really big pot of the stuff.
“It has apricots and lots of spices. It is a marvelous recipe,” he added.
Another returning menu staple is vegetarian Thai curry from the kitchen of Joel Swanson, an event founder who is serving as a consultant to this year’s chair, Colin McGroarty.
The bill of fare also includes McGroarty’s chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, Caribbean citrus chicken by Cliff Bob, pulled pork sandwiches by Gary Schurman, a child-friendly dish of greens, beans and pasta by Tony Sinatra and jalapeno-cheddar cornbread and malva pudding by Andrew Alvarez.
“We took the bones, so to speak, of Let the Men Cook and said, let’s modernize it and tie it to our mission,” said Sweetwater executive director Christine Brondyke. “This is a torch-passing moment, and we are all excited to see how this event continues.”
Let the Men Cook was a two-decade tradition before change was deemed necessary. Attendance dwindled as Light Up Night grew and added food trucks and an entertainment stage. It’s been on hiatus since the pandemic shutdown.
“It’s an event with enough tradition to stand on its own — and it’s springtime, when people are ready to come out and, we hope, to engage with us more,” Brondyke said. “We’re hoping to make this an even bigger event next year.”
Proceeds from the evening will benefit Sweetwater’s ceramics and culinary arts programs, including a new kiln and items for the teaching kitchen.
Offering diners a handcrafted bowl is a subtle form of advertising, Brondyke said. “It says to people, you too can come into Sweetwater and create a beautiful bowl with our teaching artists.”
Guests will have the opportunity to watch wheel-throwing demonstrations and to learn more about the center’s culinary and ceramics programs.
People throughout the community looked forward to the event every year, but there’s always a new audience to reach as new residents move in, Murphy said.
“You sit back and think everybody in our town knows about Sweetwater, but they don’t. It’s a constant effort to let people know what you’re doing,” he said. “When you can do things like this, and the jazz events in the summertime, they bring people in who would not have known about the organization prior to that.
“Sweetwater is a very important part of the creativity in the community.”
Tickets for Let Them Cook are $40 per person, or $15 for children 16 and under and for meal only without a bowl. For information and reservations, call 412-741-4405 or visit sweetwaterartcenter.org.
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