Lia’s Kitchen has been doing pop-up supperclubs around the city of Cardiff (and beyond!) over the last couple of years. I accosted Lia for a quick chat and to ask her about her upcoming event on Saturday 27 September – a ‘not-so-Greece food affair’.
Q. Give us a little background about yourself
A. I am Lia, an iterant Greek, and have lived in Cardiff for 13 years. I have at least two homes in my heart and feel at home everywhere. I love nature and all creative expression whilst I feel most free when dancing and singing, inside or by the sea or on a (real) mountain.
In my day job I work on water policy issues for the statutory water consumer watchdog. In my free time I sometimes write, and most importantly I run Lia’s Kitchen with the invaluable help of my friends and through collaborations with independent food businesses, such as the Penylan Pantry, MADE Gallery, and Natalie Eddins who used to run The Pot café.
Q. How did you end up in Cardiff, and how come you’ve stayed here?
A. My connection to Wales dates back to my postgraduate degree in Environmental Law in Aberystwyth. After a research year in Italy, I returned to Wales in 2002, to Cardiff in particular, to seek a research position and further research qualifications at Cardiff University. I worked at a coastal management project and taught Environmental Law. I loved teaching (miss it to this day), made wonderful friends and in 2006 at the tail end of my PhD process I settled down in Roath, in my own house.
My life took a dark turn that year when my beloved partner at the time, Tom Woollam, passed away. It was impossible to lock myself up to write up my PhD thesis and my priorities in life changed drastically. In October 2007 I gave myself one year in Cardiff, I did not want to run away from it but I also promised to myself I would not ‘bury’ myself in a place that was no longer suitable to be my home. In October 2008 I burst into life gratefully receiving every activity and offering that Cardiff had to give me, I really felt like I was rediscovering the city and myself.
My decision to stay in Cardiff was not based on logic, but I did not drift into it. I am not a work or love immigrant, although I found love again in the shape of a tall, friendly local photographer. This city has become home in such a subtle way that even when I feel I’ve had enough I want to find a way to at least have a part time base here. I love the people, the small distances, the parks, the pace of life. I love how Cardiff, despite its limitations, still offers itself to us as a blank canvas (so long as we don’t get dragged into navel gazing and perpetual old moans). Cardiff is my second home.
Q. Tell us about your history with food.
A. For me food and cooking are more than a survival skill or hobby. It might have something to do with my upbringing but food has always been at centre stage. We always were made aware of nutritional value and the importance of a balanced diet. I believe that food is love and appetite for food shows curiosity for life.
I think food and the act of preparing it are more than preventing our stomachs from rumbling. At difficult times cooking together helps overcome communication barriers – it can help transform difficult situations to nurturing and healing moments. When in celebration the act of gathering at the table seems the most intimate and meaningful. When in far away places, cooking and sharing food overcomes language barriers and awkwardness – people open their doors to you to share food. And then of course food and discovery of recipes is a way of travelling, understanding cultures and identifying similarities amongst them.
Lia’s Kitchen is about all those things. I want to create dinners that offer indulgent but healthy dishes, I want people to leave an event having met someone new or having learnt a new thing about their friend, I want people to discover new tastes and music, and at the end of the night to leave with a feeling of contentment and excitement.
Q. What’s the most memorable meal or eating experience you’ve ever had?
A. That’s hard to answer and hard to pick. So here is a recent highlight.
Last year on my birthday we organised a meal for 40 people at Jacob’s Market. My friends and I cooked tirelessly and then towards the end of the night Dan had to pull me out of the kitchen. Forty people who had just eaten my food sang happy birthday to me, and Zoe, of Bird to Market, presented me with a delicious pomegranate and feta birthday cheesecake! This is the best birthday I have had in a very long time and the best cake that anyone has ever made for me. I felt like I turned 30 again!
Q. What inspired you to start Lia’s Kitchen?
A. My friends. My real friends see things that I don’t and they don’t just hand me a drink or pat me on the back. The urge me to be all the positive things they see in me and love to push me out of my comfort zones. And so it was that one sunny day on a road trip to the Gower, my friends Becci Lynch, Elpida Sarvani and my boyfriend Dan Green, started talking about Lia’s Kitchen as a brand, a blog and a food venture. I listened, got enthused and a week later an outline Lia’s Kitchen appeared on my ‘ideas’ notice board.
Lia’s Kitchen started as a blog to record recipes and to tell stories of gathering. Oh how I rambled until I found my own format to write a recipe. Eventually, I felt the urge to cook for others outside my home. And so Lia’s Kitchen started popping up as a guest cook at various locations to create unique gatherings and menus. A new page has been turned. I am now moving on to designing my first cooking classes and offer bespoke menu design, cooking lessons and recipes on demand.
It is still the beginning for me and a year ago I never imagined there could be such a strong movement of pop-ups, supper clubs and food ventures. I feel encouraged and not the least antagonised by all these amazing entrepreneurs. I feel very lucky to live during what I consider the most significant period of food in history – a real food revolution. I am proud to be part of it.
Q. Tell us a little about the events that you are holding over the 27 – 28 September 2014 weekend
A. Lia’s Kitchen is holding two events showcasing Greek cuisine on 27 and 28 September at Penylan Pantry. The first event is a unique dining experience where our guests will be allocated Olympian and Roman deity identities for a night. And the second day is a cooking class! I am very excited that we are launching our first cooking class and I am so happy to be working , for both events, with the wonderful Penylan Pantry, a thriving independent business growing from strength to strength.
On 27 September the menu is inspired by delicacies from my homeland but I have aimed to include dishes for which many have different cultural references. It will be a kind Greek menu with a multi-culti twist. I can reveal it includes homemade vine leaf dolma, tomato fritters and the amazing cake of cakes, Revani.
On 28 September everyone that joins us will learn how to make dolma, the infamous vine leaf rice parcel. This will be a process of communal cooking. And we will also share a light evening dinner amongst the class participants.
You can get more information and book a place at our table here:
Q. Finally, give us a cooking tip that will make all our lives better in the kitchen!
A. You don’t need to wash mushrooms! For chestnut and cup mushrooms remove the stem, and peel the mushroom skin pulling from the stem cavity outwards. For oyster or wild mushrooms use a (new) soft toothbrush to get rid of the dirt.
Thanks Lia! Contact Lia’s Kitchen on email@example.com to be added to Lia’s event mailing list.
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