In about a week, February 14th – Valentine’s Day, the Nomad Chef will be celebrating its 4th birthday. It’s so hard to imagine that so much time has passed since I first started welcoming all of you strangers into my home. A lot of love has come through here.
I thought I would take a little stroll down memory lane, a kind of blog-post retrospective for those of you who don’t know me. So I’ve included a few links to some old blog posts I wrote.
Although I didn’t think of it until the day after the first Nomad Chef dinner, I was probably destined to have a supper club. I was born in a house in Seattle where my grandparents had a secret bar and night club in their basement. So I guess the secret is in my genes.
But there is much more to the story. Four years ago was only one year after my son and only child died. I had just lost the company where we both worked together due to the banking crisis. I had lost everything. And I was lost. One day a friend of my son’s was sitting in my conservatory with me, talking about this and that. She suddenly asked, “Why don’t you have any of the big dinner parties like you used to have with Shaka (my son)?” I thought the answer was obvious. I was heartbroken, paralyzed by grief and very broke. She said, “you should do one of those supper clubs.” I had no idea what she was talking about. But then she explained and two weeks later I had the first Nomad Chef dinner – on Valentine’s Day. It is kind of a love story.
My son was an actor and while he lived in LA he private cheffed while waiting for acting parts. In New York he worked in posh restaurants while writing. And then he opened a fusion restaurant in Deia (Mallorca, Spain), where he worked for a year before moving back to London where I was living and where he had spent his teenage years. Before he started working with me in my tech start-up he started a catering company called the Nomad Chef. When he died I guess he passed me the baton.
We had so many good times cooking together. I was a single mom with an only boy child. I wasn’t into action figures so we cooked. And we went out to dinners at wonderful restaurants. We took long camping trips interrupted by stays in nice hotels with amazing food. Our lives together and separately revolved around food. It seemed only appropriate to honor him by taking the baton. So, the Nomad Chef was reborn. I talked about resurrection in one of my early blog posts. I didn’t know it at the time, but inviting strangers into my home for dinner, music and laughter was the way I literally cooked my way out of the darkness.
I will always miss my son, but I’ve filled my home in Holland Park with fun and crazy strangers. I have a new family now. We eat in a glass conservatory, under the stars. I’ve had the nudists (thankfully they came fully dressed) and all kinds of wonderful, quirky, beautiful people. Once we had a private birthday dinner for a doctor and her doctor friends. Of the more than 2000 people who have come to eat here, it’s the only time I’ve had to ask people to leave. They were nice, but so very drunk! I’ve cooked in art galleries and studios, in New York and Beverly Hills. But one night in Paris I invited a couple of guys to come for a meal in London when they were in town. I’m used to inviting people over, but when they called me from a London train station announcing they were here I wondered if I was just a little too crazy. I didn’t even have a dinner planned. Not sure what I was thinking, but I was so relieved to find out they were American military guys and not axe murderers. And now we are great friends. Part of my new family.
It’s all about the spice. Like life. I wish I could say it was possible to avoid bad things happening. But it is not. Life is filled with totally unexpected things. There are some very hard times in life and I wonder if the cure is in the disease, if the only way out of hard times is through intensity of another sort. Do I love spicy food because it is so intense that it helps clear my mind, bringing me into the present, helping me to forget the things in life that have been difficult… at least for a few moments or during a meal? Are spices like the Day of the Dead rituals where we drink to those we’ve lost, honor the dead with music and food as a way of going forward? My mom cooked Mexican, Indian, Japanese, Chinese and every other cuisine she could find filled with spice. I cooked the same way for my son. It’s not just the secret restaurant that is in my genes; it is also the spice. Maybe it is just that simple – I LOVE spices, just as much as I love meeting strangers.
We have a dinner scheduled for Valentine’s Day this year to celebrate our 4th birthday. Whether you’ve been here or not, I love you. It is through finding and getting to know complete strangers that I keep the love and spice flowing in my life. Someone once said to me, “strangers are just the friends you haven’t yet met.”
Thank you all for giving me 4 great years, helping me write a new love story and a new script for a new life. Nomads find the best stuff and pass it on. Happy Birthday to the original Nomad Chef, and to the one following in his footsteps.
I would never have believed it if it hadn’t happened to me. What started off as a girl’s weekend in Paris ended with 2 lovely new friends, and a great adventure. I was out until way later than I should have been having drinks with someone I knew and someone I met at Verjus (a great restaurant in Paris; you must try it), run by two Americans, one of whom is an amazing young chef. The new person was minding her own business, eating alone. I somehow thought she might want to join me and my friend, so I timidly walked across the room and asked her if she wanted to have a glass of wine with us. I spoke French and realized immediately that she was American. But to my surprise she was born in Seattle and grew up in California – just like me! There must have been something in our common roots that silently vibrated between us. She too is an American living abroad; in Amsterdam.
Although the friend I came to Paris with to celebrate her birthday went back to our hotel after dinner (shocking the both of us as she is usually the last one standing!), my new friend and another one who had come to join us for after dinner drinks went with me to a bar. There it becomes a little fuzzy. I heard a couple of guys debating something in English at a table next to me and promptly jumped up to join in. At the time it seemed like a stimulating conversation. It may well have been the whiskey talking.
Turns out they were only in Paris for a few days. I remember telling these two young men at around 3 in the morning that they were welcome to come to dinner at my house if their travels brought them to London. “We’ll be there Monday,” I remember them saying. OK, deal. I didn’t think much more about it until Sunday when I was home recovering from two very busy days and nights in Paris. I got an email from one of these two asking the best way to travel to London from Paris. Hmmm… nothing like leaving travel from one country to another until the very last minute. I explained the options, and a few hours later received confirmation of their arrival in London the next morning and asking for my address.
I was a little worried. I didn’t even know these guys and yet they were coming to my house for dinner. That might come as a shock to some, since I open my house up to 24 strangers every week or two for dinners here. But my boxer boyfriend sous chef is always here and this particular evening he was out. And there is something reassuring about the fact that people have pre-paid for their meal at the Nomad Chef. I brushed aside whatever questions and doubts and went grocery shopping and cooked.
The first of the two arrived a little early, saying the other one would be right along. Finally I asked the question I should have asked when I met them in a bar: “What are you doing in Europe?” The first one began telling me that they were in Paris for 3 days of work. He had barely started to explain when the second young man arrived. They are American service men; in the army. And they were in Paris working, but couldn’t reveal exactly what they were doing there.
They began telling me incredible stories about their work, their lives and their families. But what was even more inspiring than seeing how dedicated these two guys are to helping people, was hearing their stories about friends who have lost two and three limbs and still want to go back to war zones. I know about loss. But I’m not sure I know that kind of dedication and risk. Some of these wounded warriors are hoping that with the aid of technology they will get to go back to where they lost their limbs so they can help the others still there. These remarkable young men work in bomb disposal in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
And that was not the only surprise. They’d had no plans to come to London but on the offer of a home cooked meal thought it would be fun to come for their last 18 hours in Europe. This was their first time to Europe, to Paris and to London. They came to London for a meal!
The younger of the two got off the tube on his way here and somehow managed to leave his backpack in a restaurant toilet stall. Just before sitting down to dinner he realized it. Thanks to Google Maps satellite view, they figured out where it probably was. I piled the two of them in my smart car and we rushed off to find the pack. It was still there. This is one of the busiest places in London and no one stole his pack. Then after dinner and after a drink at a local club, they came back to my house and realized this younger one had lost his wallet. I gave them sheets and blankets and told them to go to sleep. They had worked and traveled and site seen for 4 days with no sleep. No wonder they were losing things. They crept out early in the morning to catch a train back to Paris and to board their flight back to the US. A few hours later an old man rang my bell and asked if the wallet belonged to me. He’d found it in the street and asked all of the nearby neighbors if it belonged to them.
These young men appear to have very good luck. In their line of work I am certain they need it. But looking back on our chance encounter and their truly adventuresome spirit, I realize it was me who had the good fortune to have met them. I meet the most amazing people because I love food and love cooking. They left having had a good home cooked meal and I was left with two new friends and a big heap of inspiration!
I’ve been neglecting my blogging here on the Nomad Chef site. I’m not exactly sure why. But I’m back here, at least for the moment. With no dinner scheduled in January I’ve had time to really miss cooking! Oh, I’ve cooked, but it has mostly been for me and my boyfriend sous chef. He is happy to have a little break, but I miss the big dinners.
We had such a lovely Christmas Eve dinner here. Three days of cooking to prepare 25 dishes! I do not think that will become a Nomad Chef tradition, but I loved it. There were 12 dishes for dinner and 13 desserts! The 13 desserts are a South of France Christmas tradition, and since I spent 5 years there (where I met the sous chef boyfriend), I thought it would provide great inspiration for Christmas Eve dinner. It was a riot of flavors, and way too much food, but loads of beautiful new people and a few familiar ones too. My favorite dish was the Indo-Italian raviolis (leave me a comment if you are curious about these!). We had fois gras, Thai soup, salmon tartare, smoked oysters, cote de boeuf (28 days aged) and loads more. It is all a big blur. My favorite dessert (of the 13) was something chocolate, but I’ve already forgotten what it was. But of course, the best part of Christmas Eve were the people. I cook for people as a way of giving and receiving love. We were all surrounded by it that night.
The holidays are hard for me since I lost my son. I need to stay super busy to get through them. The days after Christmas can seem so empty. I think that is true for a lot of us. So, what do we do? More people! I organized a kind of impromptu New Year’s Eve dinner! Beautiful people, both kids and adults. And as always, we ended up dancing! More love!
And while I am on the subject of love, we are having a Valentine’s Dinner here on the 14th of February. But this special dinner of love is only for Singles! They deserve a little special attention from time to time. And our singles dinners are a blast – spicy in every sense of the word!
Valentine’s Day has a special meaning for me because it is the day we launched the Nomad Chef. It will be our 3 year anniversary! Hard to believe it! The secret restaurant I started in honor of my son has given me a new family and a whole new lease on life. If you can’t be with the one you love, then you love the one(s) you’re with. That is what I do every time I open the house to strangers who are yet to become my friends.
2013 is going to be my year of love. If you have a chance to come to one of our dinners I’ll feed you loads of love. That is all we need. (Soon I’ll be posting a load of dinners… stay tuned!)
I’ve just come back from a whirlwind road trip. It actually started a few weeks ago when I went to Boston (to screen my film at the Boston Film Festival, which you can read about here or here). I came home for a few days to cook for a dinner being held at the Debut Contemporary Gallery in Notting Hill before jumping on a plane for San Francisco. We’ve started collaborating on these dinners. The innovative gallery put artists and collectors together. And we put people and food together – a great combination for a smashing evening, that was spotted by Tatler magazine. You can read about it here. We’ll be doing another one on October 24th! And then every month after (except in December). This is the Art in HeArt.
I was shortly back on the road – this time to San Francisco. The day after I arrived, jet lag and all, I cooked dinner for 30 people who had gathered to remember a dear friend who died a few months earlier. We were all heartbroken when Chris Andrews so suddenly died. I didn’t make it to his memorial service so was happy when one of his friends decided to organize an evening of dining, dancing and live music at her hilltop house in Tiburon (google if you don’t know where it is – it is so beautiful there). Food is all about comfort. The beautiful and dynamic Cynthia from a Napa wine making family, our hostess, paired lovely wines with our aching souls and I cooked my heart out, wishing Chris could have been with us and felt our love. Cynthia and friends sang their hearts out. Victoria Theodore performed, playing a magnificent piano and sang her heart out too. Cooking is what I do when I’m sad. And feeding people is what I do when they’re sad. So it was a perfect equation. Soul Food.
Then I was off to Los Angeles, where my film screened again, this time in the LA Femme International Film Festival. I was happy to be surrounded there by women filmmakers (and friends) when I screened my film about the inner journey I have taken since my son died. It is not easy for me to see him on the big screen, or even in little photos. And so I did the only thing I could do while staying in a hotel – I went to a friend’s house and made curry popcorn. It was all I could muster under the circumstances.
My son would be proud of me for cooking and creating in spite of such a huge hole in my life. He was the artist (actor and writer) and chef. Now I’m just following in his footsteps, doing things that remind me of him. It’s all about heart and soul food. That’s what we need as humans.
Next dinner here at the Nomad Chef is on Friday, October 26th. Then Thanksgiving (Saturday November 24th; more info soon)! And I’ll be doing another dinner on the road, the 22nd of November in Vienna! Stay tuned…
Unbeknownst to me I was being tested today. I went into The Fish Shop at Kensington Place today to pick up some fish for a red Thai curry I’m making tonight. And for the millionth time I was happy to be a vegetarian! Monkfish for two, £26 ($40)!!! Vegetables are just so much cheaper. But I have a friend coming to dinner tonight and wanted something simple, but delicious.
I handed the young man serving me my card. He hadn’t hurried to wait on me when I came in; he seemed to be more concerned with running his fingers through his rich head of hair. That was why it was all so surprising – I wouldn’t have guessed the humor waiting to come out. I typed in my PIN and hitting the 2nd number I realized the card processing machine was balanced on a sea of lemons. Between the 1st and 2nd number I did notice that I felt a little wobbly. But it wasn’t me who was wobbling, it was the card machine. I delicately tapped in the last two numbers and turned to the young fish monger. His face lit up! “You’ve passed my carefully constructed test!” He’d purposely balanced the machine on the lemons…
“So you win a…” and he looked around… “a lemon and…” He interrupted himself giving me my winnings and said, “You have to do something to break up a monotonous day.” And went on to explain that this was some kind of test, being able to type in my PIN numbers without knocking the machine and lemons onto the floor. I nearly split my seams laughing! And I was so relieved that on this amazing day of the Paralympics that I was not being asked to pay for my fish standing on one leg or something else this fishmonger/comedian dreamed up. My prize included free herbs. Of course I chose the coriander (cilantro for the American reader), my favorite herb. I couldn’t stop laughing at what I’d stumbled into, someone’s private joke and some free stuff to go with my incredibly expensive fish. Still laughing as I write.
My test today was not anything like an Olympic or Paralympic event. But on a day when I’ve been so inspired by the athletes competing with disabilities that make me feel about as coordinated as a monkfish, it was my paranormal event – and a great reminder of how lucky I am! Also a great reminder of how a wave of happiness can come out of nowhere.
Our Nomad Chef celebration of the Olympics was great fun! More than 75 beautiful people, live music, art and food of course! On the 28th of July we popped up in Kilburn! But now we’re back to our own digs. We’ll be offering singles the chance to meet and mingle at the Nomad Chef: For Singles Only! on the 1st of September. And then on the 21st of September, a dinner themed around music.
We are looking forward to meeting you all and to adding you to our new circle of friends!
In honor of visitors from all over the world, and those of us who live here, the Nomad Chef will be popping up in Kilburn (London), not all that far from our normal digs in Holland Park.
This larger venue will allow us to create a social dining experience like no other, many, many strangers in true Nomad Chef style.
The venue is only a 15 minute ride from Oxford Circus!
If you are new to London and want to meet others with a love of adventure and great food, a supper club is the very best way to make new friends and have great new experiences.
This will be so much more than a dining event! In keeping with the spirit of the games, we are riffing around the number five:
- The meal will include a five course tasting menu, with a menu curated from food from 5 continents, a gastronomic round the world representing many of the countries that will be competing here this summer.
- There will be five incredible live audio experiences, including live music and spoken word!
- We will curate an exhibition from five different artists, including everything from illustrations, paintings and sculpture to painted cushions.
Cost: £40 per person as a contribution to food (including a cocktail on arrival). Feel free to bring your own favorite bottle of wine or you can buy it from our bar. And, we always have a vegetarian option. Purchase your tickets here: http://nomadchefpopuplondon2012.eventbrite.com/
As ever we’re excited about welcoming you to the Nomad Chef, whether this is your first with us or in London, or if you just love hanging out with us sharing what’s best about life – food and friends.
If you are wondering who we are, the Nomad Chef is a secret restaurant normally located in Holland Park where we host an ever changing group of adventurous, interesting, eclectic food lovers meet to eat food from all over the world, and share stories and artifacts of their lives… in the true Nomad tradition. Although the Nomad Chef is based in London, we love to take our culinary experiences on the road…
The exact address will be sent out a few days before the event!
Visit our Facebook page for more info.
I think I live for big events. I am a Taurean and very earth bound, so it probably takes a bunch of energy to combat my natural inertia. Planning an event focuses the mind, and harnesses that core energy that is buried deep within me, this stubborn Taurean. I love planning parties, dinners, and organizing things. When I’m sad or stressed I need a big distraction.
Food works the same way. A meal is an event. I rely on the creation of a menu to give me a boost whenever I’m sitting on the couch trying to figure out what to do. Fortunately, I don’t have that many hours in any given day when I am sitting on the couch. But those quiet moments are sometimes difficult for me. I am living my life with a huge missing piece. The missing piece is sometimes so noticeable to me that I wonder how I can even walk, let alone cook. But the only way forward, the only way through, is to make a big plan or make a big meal.
This summer while everyone is celebrating something in London – the Olympics, football, or art – I decided to jump into the fray. Think of all of the lovely strangers who will be visiting our city for one reason or another. I want to meet them, or as many of them as possible! What better way than for a big event! We’ll be hosting several dinners and lunches at our normal Holland Park digs. But we needed a bigger venue to invite even more people! So we decided to do much more than usual, in the spirit of the Olympics! We are going for the theme of five – five courses, five artists showing their work, and five different musicians or spoken word artists. And food will be curated from 5 different continents. We’re hoping that all of regulars, those who frequent Nomad Chef often, will join us in welcoming people from all over the world to our pop-up dinner on the 28th of July.
The Nomad Chef Pop-Up London 2012: Great Dining Event! is your chance to take a tour of the world in a single, beautiful dining room. (If you are an artist or musician who would like to participate in this, let us know.)
See there! Just writing about this big event has worked like a big, beautiful bar of dark chocolate. Whatever I was worrying about has simply disappeared! I hope that you will spread the word, join us and feel the excitement of summer in London!
I lost a very good friend a week ago. I hadn’t actually seen him for more than 10 years. I knew him as a kid when we lived in the same neighborhood in Palo Alto, California. And then we reconnected some years ago. I enjoyed catching up with him. But I learned that the reason he had moved as a child was because his mom died hen he was 13. This adult reconnection was important because it is when I learned that his mom had killed herself, and of all of his suffering since. My mom had died early too, although I was a few years older. I was honored that he revealed his past to me, the stuff I couldn’t have known or understood as a kid.
We had our roots in common. Our neighborhood was really special. It was a little sliver of land just next to the famed Stanford University. We all went to school with a lot of the kids whose parents were professors. It was in the 60s. My house was filled with people. My mom was one of those people who just invited people in, from anywhere. And she’d cook. And the adults would stay up late at night talking. Those years formed us. I know I am not so different from my mom in many ways. I see now that my now lost friend was probably not that different from his mom either.
It was only in the last 3 years that we became very close. I would find him online when I was wide awake at night, after midnight my time. It was 8 hours earlier in California. In these early hours I would sometimes find it difficult to imagine living another day with the pain of losing my son. This newish, old friend, had so much compassion. He would talk/chat with me for hours. Mostly he would listen. Very few people are able to listen like he was. And it helped. I needed to talk and be listened to.
This week has been difficult for me. It has been a reminder of my own deep loss. I think of his family and how they are suffering. When I lost my son I immediately started cooking. Maybe not that night, but certainly the day after. It is something I have always done for comfort. I wish I could cook for my friend’s family. I would be doing that if I were in California. But today I am imagining that my son is up there, wherever that is, cooking for my friend, helping him ease into his new life.
My son was not too different from me. He used food for comfort. In the absence of him I have had to create a new family. My now dead friend was part of that family, the family I have created. I have lost another dear friend and part of my new family, but I am gaining some of his family as my own. I may not be able to cook for them today, but I am sure I will one day. And we will share stories of our losses, and of our life being renewed when we never thought it possible. I am cooking a lot these days. It is all I know how to do when I am sad. And the magic of food, its ability to pick me up, soothe me, make others happy… well, I am just so thankful for it. Just as I am thankful for my new friends, the strangers who join me in meals in my home.
On July 1st I will cook a big meal at the Nomad Chef in honor of my friend. I hope that he and my son will have their own party up there and that we can all share a meal and think of the families we have and the ones we are yet to create.