Küche is a social enterprise that organises food-led events and community dinners in collaboration with refugee and migrant chefs. Their mission is to promote integration, overcome social isolation, celebrate global cuisines, and create sustainable outcomes for the chefs that they work with. StrEAT talks to founder Deborah May about narratives through food, the importance of eating together, and her vision for Küche going forward.
Q: Eating is joyous, highly personal, and often political. Do the chefs that you work with have a clear story that they want to convey with their food, that they maybe wouldn’t get a chance to tell otherwise?
A: There is definitely a narrative there; food that tells collective and individual stories. They aren't stories that they *don't* often tell (most of the chefs are enthusiastic home cooks) but I think by working to put on an event together, they are getting to tell these stories to an audience who are hungry to experience something new. There is a quote that I really like by Zena Saro Wiwa (chef/artist):
“I make food to tell stories. I make food so that people receive whatever alchemy or magic happens when eating another culture’s food. To tell them something. Or perhaps it is just my way of telling myself that the land belongs to me too. That it is not worthless. That the labour of so many women is not for nothing.”
Something I would like to do more through events is tell a political story - linking the food and culture to the geopolitics of a place.
Q: As a social enterprise, what are your main hopes and goals for Küche going forward?
A: This is a good question to ask because I don't often speak aloud about my future dreams for Küche. My hope for the near future is to have more regular food commissions so that I can create a more sustainable outcome and further job opportunities for others. I also hope that we will have the opportunity to go on a residency somewhere - my idea was that Küche should always be able to travel. My long term future dream is to build on my food engagement practice and develop Küche as a institute of the anthropology of food, which would support multicultural and refugee chefs. The institute will host a chef-in-residence, a day-time cafe, as well as a program of events (engaging food, arts and activism - including the staging of feast performances, discussions, symposiums and food gatherings, cookery classes, kitchen spaces that can be rented out by other chefs)... The goal would be to continuously provoke discussion, and form new recipes and new tastes in collaboration with multicultural chefs.
Q: Glasgow has always been seen as a more welcoming and inclusive city than perhaps others in the UK - how do you think Glasgow has been responding to your events so far?
A: Glasgow has been great! I am always surprised about all the other organisations and ventures that are doing amazing stuff and with a similar ethos. I think Glasgow has quite an appetite for food and community events, so I am interested to see how things develop here. Maybe someone will create a food institute before me or maybe there will be so much other amazing things happening in collaboration with multicultural chefs that there won't be a need for Küche. I find with doing the events in Glasgow there is such a ready audience to engage; I guess what can be difficult is trying to diversify that audience and make everything that we produce accessible. I also love that people in Glasgow come to the events on their own as if joining a dinner table with family and friends. Glasgow is good at that, making strangers into friends even if it is just for an evening.
Q: Everyone is understandably nervous at the moment about what Brexit will mean for immigrants and refugees. Do you see Küche, and eating together in general, as one possible way to help make Britain’s uncertain future a little brighter?
A: Yes, I do. Thanks for saying this as well. I think sometimes I forget to think about how important the basic happiness is that comes so simply from creating a space where people eat together. It is easy to get caught up in doubts but I guess as long as we are coming together, enabling someone to share their food and all the stories that comes with that, then we are always encouraging activism and solidarity to take place.
For more information about Küche's upcoming events, check out their website and facebook below:
An Iranian Feast 18th May:
Dinner Doctor 27th May;
#strEATtalk is a new narrative series that shines a spotlight on Glasgow's culinary scene, focusing on the journeys and stories of up and coming food innovators. Follow #strEATtalk as we get to know the people who are making our city taste better!