Author Archives: NomadChefAdmin

Big events at the Nomad Chef!

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!

Creating family

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.

Getting dressed up!

Oh what a difference a change of costume makes! It is the next best thing to eating something truly delicious, comforting and decadent! I haven’t had any costume parties (fancy dress party in English England) in ages. I think the last one held at the Nomad Chef was a private party where all of the girls came dressed as men. It was a blast! But my favorite one was the Mad Men themed dinner and that was ages ago.

I’ve been a little down lately due to some weird virus that attacked my thyroid. I really can’t complain as it helped me lose some of that fat that I picked up in the last few years. All of my girlfriends are jealous and would like the same virus, but apparently it is not contagious. In addition to having lost my appetite and a little weight, I slept nearly all day every day for a few weeks. It was truly delicious but did make me feel a little frustrated… and I missed all of the noise and chaos of my normal life. But most of all I missed meeting strangers who are about to be my new friends. And now suddenly I am very hungry!

So, since everyone in London is getting amped up for the Queen’s celebration I thought it only fair that we have our own excuse to get dressed up. And what better way than combine costume with cooking. The only problem is that there isn’t enough room in our little kitchen for a royal outfit, so what about wearing just the crown? And since we all have a hidden king, queen, princess or prince inside, all the more reason that everyone who comes to dinner on the 6th of June should too wear a crown.

But that is not all. It seems as if London is going to be filled with all kind of lovely strangers for the entire summer, all the way through the Olympics. We are busily thinking of other excuses to dress up (or not), but mostly great dinner themes that will attract great new people (and our lovely loyal new friends). So, I just thought I would share a little of my summer enthusiasm. I am fully prepared (tho not looking forward to to it) to expand my waisttine in honour of our upcoming dinners. So hopefully you will join me!

A visiting angel

The day before yesterday I received a strange email from someone. I had no idea who she was but I’m used to getting emails from strangers. She said the night before she had helped out at another secret restaurant in London and had had so much fun that she wanted to do it again in another venue. She asked me: “Could I be of any help waitressing/washing up?”

I couldn’t believe my incredible fortune! We were completely sold out and had at least 24 people coming for dinner. I’d already posted on my personal FB page asking if any of my friends wanted to come help out. No luck. And then less than 24 hours before the dinner I get this angel from somewhere out there in the ether saying that she wanted to do exactly what I needed help with. And then when I gave her the address it turned out she lived a mere 4 or 5 houses away from us, on the same street!

Was this divine luck the nature of prayer? Or the power of food? There is something so special about the people who choose to attend a dinner in a secret location with, at least in our case, an unspecified menu, filled with complete strangers. Someone asked me last night, as happens often enough, “Don’t you worry about letting strangers into your house?” No, uh, I guess I never thought to worry. From the first time we opened the doors to the Nomad Chef about 2 ½ years ago, we have had only the nicest people come to dinner. I think it is somehow self-selecting. Only those passionate about meeting new people and trying great food in secret locations would turn up. And who are these people? They are often in the 30s, but we have younger and older too. They are usually professionals and often in the creative fields. And they love food. But it is even more special when a 20 year old university student chooses to come and help! So there is really nothing to worry about!

The angel came to my door last night, 15 minutes before the guests, 24 of them who were mostly strangers. She is passionate about food. And curious. I guess she did some research about secret restaurants and our name came up. Was her courage to go a strange place and offer to help nurture or nature? I think she is the youngest stranger to come to the Nomad Chef. She rocked up and pitched right in – hostessed, served cocktails, washed dishes, plated food and helped serve. How did she know how to do any of this? I later learned that she’d never even been a waitress and this was only her second visit to a secret restaurant as a visiting helper. It must be nurture, I figured. But no! She said she grew up in a family where food was only fuel, not an obsession or passion like it is for her, or for me, or for most of our guests. Wow, so then it must be nature!

Today I woke up to a thank you note from this lovely angel! She’d beat me to it. I (and Bruno my boxer boyfriend and sous-chef) was the one who was supposed to be thanking her! I think this heavenly visitation came from the power of food rather than prayer. Those of us with this passion know how to find each other. And for that I am grateful.

A little bit of sunshine!

It’s amazing how a little sunshine can make everyone feel so much better. I just spent a few days in my old neighborhood, the Cote d’Azur in the south of France. It was mostly warm and sunny and the beautiful blue sea was mirrored by a clear blue sky. Before I left London we’d had what seemed like weeks of what seemed like early summer so now I feel really spoiled. And talking about spoiled, while I was in Antibes I stayed with an old friend who is a chef and former restauranteur. She is from Corsica and some of her family are Berbers from North Africa. She cooked for me most nights for a week and the flavors were amazing, infused with sunshine. Being cooked for was such a treat. And our mutual love of food led to many plans for adventures in the South of France (a 2 day cooking workshop during the Cannes Film Festival just a few miles away in a lovely villa – let me know if you would like to join us), a dinner in London that she will co-chef with me (10th of May; will be posted here soon) and a Nomad Chef road show to include Napa and San Francisco! So excited!

On the subject of sunshine, we decided to celebrate by having a little early summer dinner here at the Nomad Chef. Please join us for our Nomad Chef: Holland Park Beach Party! on the 21st of April. We’re going to cook food inspired by tropical paradises! And you can practice for summer by wearing a beautiful sarong or wild Hawaiian shorts and shirts.

We have lots of sunny plans for the next few months, and all of them include food. Join our mailing list if you want to be sure of being invited.

Cherry Blossom Boogie!

Never in the long, long history (we were 2 years on our last birthday, February 14th!) have we forgotten to post an upcoming dinner on the site! This is reason to break all of the rules! What has been happening here at the Nomad Chef that we can be guilty of such a huge oversight? Well, it is a long story… It started one year ago, almost to the day. A road trip that became a year long journey. We took the Nomad Chef on the road… well, I guess I have to say, I took the Nomad Chef on the road. My faithful sous chef (and boyfriend) had no interest in going on the road with our restaurant. And even less interest in participating in the making of a documentary. So, armed with a trusty companion, I made the journey alone. And it was the beginning of Nomad Chef as a pop up restaurant. So much fun to cook in strange places, strange kitchens, for complete strangers. And you can read about the documentary here if you like. It is a separate, but very related project. And the film was finished today! So, it is all the more reason for us to celebrate!

So, if you are stumbling across this page, and wondering when to pop by the Nomad Chef in London, the time is now! Or rather, the 28th of March.

Here is the scoop:

Come help us celebrate everything pink, including cherry blossoms! This will be the Nomad Chef’s 3rd Cherry Blossom Festival dinner, so we are going to really boogie! Sadly our cherry blossom tree has white flowers. That means we decided that we all should dress up in pink! We’ll cook some lovely pink dishes… and maybe we’ll even have pink cocktails!

The dinner, a multi-course meal, will be inspired by Japan, and sprinkled with the fusion of many other flavors. And of course we’ll have a fabulous pudding (or two!). We look forward to welcoming you back if you have dined with us before, and hope that if you haven’t come to the Nomad Chef before that you make this evening your first experience.

A vegetarian option is always available.

£35 per adult as contribution for food – you bring your own wine or alcoholic beverage. Purchase your tickets here.

Having just had our two year old birthday, please forgive us for our terrible twos and tantrums. We really wanted to tell you about this dinner. It has been planned for a couple of weeks. But our inner rebel came out and kind of got control. We are trying to let our inner adult regain the reins. We so appreciate your patronage! And we love having you beautiful strangers, those who are about to become our friends, in our home to share a meal!

See or the Nomad Chef Facebook Page for more info.

Note: The address to the restaurant will be sent out two days before the dinner.

A short story


If you read this blog regularly, then you will notice that I haven’t been posting here very often lately. Well, there is a good reason for that. I’ve been very busy cooking (loads of private dinners here at the Nomad Chef this winter, in addition to all of the public ones) and editing my documentary film. I started shooting the film last March, a kind of road trip film with a lot of cooking and dancing and healing. You can read about the project here or here. The Nomad Chef went on the road for about three weeks and did a couple of dinners in Beverly Hills, one of the stops on this road trip. If you haven’t been to a dinner with us, this clip from the film will give you a feeling for what they are like. Although the house we rented for this dinner is much grander than our humble home in Holland Park, we have always have food, new people and dancing! … and very often we have live music! My son, the original Nomad Chef, passed the baton to me. But as I’ve learned, we are our own legacies. I think my son has somehow shown me that we both carried the seeds of traveling, cooking and dancing in our genes. I feel his invisible presence in all of the meals I cook.

Beginning the day before Thanksgiving and ending 30 days later, on December 23rd, I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to finish the film. It was a tremendous success and I achieved my funding goal for this phase of the project. It reminded me of why I do the the Nomad Chef; I met strangers from all over the world who contributed to the making of this film. Many of these strangers, people who read this blog, contributed to the funding campaign! And for that I am so grateful!

The film is nearing completion. I think we are within weeks of having a final version. It is the short story of a woman who lost her son and only child set off on a journey to find happiness by taking a road trip and hosting pop-up supper clubs in distant lands. On her journey she met people in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, dreamers who had made their dreams come true. In Silicon Valley she met entrepreneurs who wore failure as a badge of honor. And in New York she found keys to the future in artifacts from the past.

A very long journey alone into the wilderness is typical of a native American vision quest. I’ve found that even when the journey is unplanned, it forces the seeker to look into his soul. Whether the journey through the desert lasts 40 days or, as in my own personal journey,  one with no end in sight, the rituals are important. The ritual of sharing food with strangers on their own journeys is at the heart of what we do here at the Nomad Chef. Regardless of where you are in your personal journey, we invite you to share a meal and some of your stories with us.

Thankful at last

I can’t believe exactly a month has gone by since my last post! I think I have been having too much fun, or else I’ve been very busy cooking – same thing really. Today is Thanksgiving, a special day for foodies and a particularly special day for me. My son and I spent some of our happiest days together on Thanksgivings as it was one of the only holidays that came without any baggage. It is a day all about food, our favorite shared passion. This it the 3rd Thanksgiving I will have had without him in this world. And that makes me sad. But I had a funny experience today where I thought I’d lost something in the kitchen and it turned up unexpectedly – I kind of figure he invisibly put it in my path. I’m not really sure what I believe in, but I like to think that if ever something would call him back to this earth from wherever he is it would be food. So I’m imagining him hovering and breathing in the wonderful aromas in my house, the house he never visited. He would be here now if he could be. So he must be, somewhere.

It is traditional to think of things that make us feel grateful on Thanksgiving. While growing up we used to each say something we were grateful for as we were sitting at the dinner table. I did the same thing with my son at our Thanksgiving dinners. So, I might try it tonight with the Nomad Chef dinner guests. I think there are only a couple of Americans coming tonight, it will mostly be Brits including some of my son’s friends and some of my new friends, people I’ve met since starting the Nomad Chef. I’m serving my family’s traditional oyster pie as the starter. I love serving it to people and seeing their surprised, wary regard for it. Not sure why so many people don’t like oysters. Everyone eventually tries it though, and then it is a rush to get seconds of which there aren’t any! I’m happy to have these things from my childhood that I can share with my new friends. It’s especially important to me since I don’t have my son to carry these things forward. Others will do it in his place.

I was hard pressed to think of anything to be thankful for in the other Thanksgivings I had as a newly childless mother. But this time it is different. Maybe it’s the reason I haven’t been writing here as often. I’ve been very busy with my new life. My trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, for example (my post of a month ago was in anticipation of that trip). It was the Nomad Chef’s first pop-up in Manhattan. It was truly fab.  A lot of work shopping in a city Ive never cooked in before, and doing two dinners back to back while jet lagged, 1 1/2 hours apart, one day after another. And cooking all of it in a lovely little apartment in Tribeca with a counter of about 1 1/2 feet square! Thankful for the little coffee table that we used to prep (a lovely young woman I met at one of my dinners in London accompanied me and helped me cook). Thankful that the kitchen was super clean as it had never been used before! Thankful that we did the Chelsea dinner in an amazing space. Our hosts were lovely and shared their kitchen with complete strangers. The only challenge was that it was 7 floors up in this elegant apartment building, so serving was a little more interesting than usual. And then the exact opposite, as we cooked for 35 or so in New Jersey, in an American mega kitchen that only people in the suburbs (or mega rich) possess. Thankful for the strangers who made all this possible. And this is what I am most thankful for today – since doing my secret restaurant I have met a whole new set of friends, including many of the musicians who have come to play at our dinners. Two of my favorites were both in New York and New Jersey and came to sing at those two dinners. I am truly grateful to have them in my life. You will see why if you listen to them sing here at the dinner in Manhattan. Three years into this journey of loss, I’m finally at the point where I can start seeing some of the gains. I am thankful for that. And I wish you all, Americans anyway, a happy day with those you love. I hope you can find something to be thankful for today, and everyday.

Stranger Love

My temporary mission in life is to travel as much as I can. But because I don’t love traveling, or at least I don’t love being a tourist or taking vacations, I must have objectives, things to accomplish in different places. Moving makes the time pass, and going to new places allows me to grow my family of strangers – my next new friends.

A couple of weeks ago a nomad from New York passing through London on a European vacation came to dinner here. She rented a room for a few nights in what she thought was London, but was really about an hour and a half from here. So when it was time to leave our dinner, “Road Trip Diaries,” it was too late to go home. What a lucky encounter! Christina slept in our guest room so we got to spend the next morning talking. The outcome was strange but wonderful.

I did a couple of Nomad Chef dinners in Beverly Hills a few weeks ago while we were on the run from our house that was overtaken by construction. Beverly Hills because there is a lovely little apartment for rent behind the glamorous house I rented last spring to do a couple of Nomad Chef dinners AND because the owner, once a stranger, has become my friend. So I told Christina, my new friend and fellow nomad, that I’d love to do some dinners in New York (the construction here is nearly finished, but not quite, so more moving) she promptly offered up her parents’ home (well, with their permission, of course).  They live in New Jersey and have a bunch of friends who would be up for a Nomad Chef food and musical evening. Part 1 of new road tour organized!

I needed to do at least one more dinner, one in New York City, in order to feel like I’d really accomplished something. This was the hard part. I don’t really know many people in New York, least of all people in this expensive city with dining rooms that would fit 25 to 30 people. Hmm… well, that is what social networks are for. I went to one of the more exclusive social networks that I belong to and sent 10 emails to 10 complete strangers, the only criteria being that they had offered their couches up to members from other places coming through town. Aha, open friendly people. I offered to cook, hostess, clean up and have amazing music and all they had to do is be the king or queen of their roost. Not bad, eh? I got 4 responses and one of them was stunning!

My new friend, still only a virtual one, wrote back that his mom always did big dinner parties so he has grown up with them and loves them too. He loved the idea of the roving Nomad Chef and took it upon himself to find a friend with enough room for our magical evening this Thursday, October 27th. He found an amazing venue in Chelsea, perfect for Alex Berger and Chrissie Poland to perform, and plenty of room for the perfect mix of strangers. And now I have yet another new, generous friend – his friend who has opened her home for our pop-up to me, a complete stranger! But it didn’t stop there. The new friend invited his parents who have also become my new friends, by virtue of some lovely email exchanges. We seem to have a strange connection with jazz and Alaska. Part 2 of new road trip organized!

Tomorrow I am off to New York, never having had so much stranger love and looking forward to meeting my new friends. In this new strange world in which I have been living the last few years, strangers have been my best friends. So very pleased to meet you! Part 3… stay tuned…

Running on Empty

When things are hard and life seems so unstable and I have run as fast as I can and have still not outrun my problems or my life, I go back to what works. I cook. I felt flat today, totally exhausted. I came back from a 10 day holiday in Amsterdam, Florence and then several days on Lake Como (yes, that is where the handsome George Clooney owns a home – I think he was elsewhere when I was there, maybe Venice?). The lake was incredible but the mountains that surrounded it are what called attention to it, are what made it special.

But I came home to chaos. I’m not good at traveling though I should be an expert having done it for business (and sometimes pleasure) for most of my life. It is still hard for me. I am a Taurus and like my home and what is familiar. This trip was not planned… it was a way to get away from the construction going on in my home. While I was gone the builders tore out the walls in my bedroom and the bathroom that used to hold the bathtub. These two rooms, for now, no longer exist. I came home from the airport at 10 last night to an inch of dust on the floor and walls of the entry and main hallway. Worse was the loss of my comfort, my bedroom and bathroom. My living room, kitchen and dining room are all as they were when I left them, sealed off as they were by layers of plastic sheeting and tape. But what good is a kitchen when there is no bedroom (for now)?

After spending the day cleaning up the dust so I can welcome a hen party here at the Nomad Chef for dinner tomorrow (hoping they will understand the wall of brick that was only a week ago covered with plaster and paint) and after traveling when I didn’t really feel like leaving my home in the month of the 3 year anniversary of the death of my son, the original Nomad Chef, I was running on empty.

And then I started planning the menu for the dinner. What can I cook for the starter? And what combination of cuisines do I feel like for tomorrow night’s mashup? Hmmm…. Mexican, Japanese, Singaporian and American (from the comfort food center of the southern states) feel right. I surfed cookbooks, my notes, and websites for the perfect recipes that would give me back my center. And within minutes I’d filled my tank. I was no longer running on fumes, deplete of energy by my struggle to juggle and handle and get through things – just the thought of food and the preparation of it had filled me right up. Thinking of food is almost as good as cooking it and eating it. I was off and running. Tonight I will sleep easier on my temporary bed, the couch, and tomorrow I’ll fill my tank by cooking and serving food that I love. I’ll offer that love up to a group of complete strangers. The challenges I have and the mountains I have to climb have somehow turned my half empty building site of a home into a calm clear lake next to which I can repose myself – the comfort of food.

I’m traveling again soon. There are only so many days one can go without a shower. But I’ll be home again soon and the Nomad Chef will be open for business (and for comfort). Come fill your tank on the 8th of October when our dinner menu will be inspired by my road trip diaries.