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.