1 April 2022

Community, storytelling, and food cooked with love are all on the menu at Her Kitchen Table's 'Food and Stories' dinner

| Lucy Ridge
Zeytin menus on table

Zeytin Turkish Cuisine on the Kingston Foreshore will be the new headquarters of Her Kitchen Table and will host the Food and Stories event. Photo: Supplied.

Her Kitchen Table is relaunching its program for the year with a special dinner to bring the community together over a shared love of food and stories.

Her Kitchen Table is a Social Enterprise run by the Social Outcomes Lab that seeks to give employment to culturally and linguistically diverse women in Canberra who often find it challenging to gain employment. The program trains women in food safety and small business skills to sell their home-cooked style meals through the Her Kitchen Table website.

After launching in 2021, the program had a brief hiatus over the summer as they searched for a new chef to lead their team and train the participants, called meal artists.

Headshot of smiling woman in hijab

Nazia Ahmed is the founder and director of the Social Outcomes Lab and is the co-founder of Her Kitchen Table. Photo: Supplied.

Managing director Nazia Ahmed stumbled upon the perfect opportunity while out for a late-night dinner with a friend in Kingston. Chef Metin Baran of Zeytin Turkish Cuisine had closed his kitchen for the evening but took pity on the hungry friends and offered to make them some pide (Turkish pizza). As they ate, Nazia found herself thinking of the possibilities.

“The location is just fantastic!” Nazia told Region Media. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘wouldn’t this just be an amazing location for the meal artists?'”

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She got chatting with Metin and the partnership was born.

Zeytin restaurant is closed on a Monday, but Metin has generously opened up the space for the Her Kitchen Table meal artists to use, and he will offer supervision and training. Previously the program had operated out of the Woden Community Centre.

Woman in hijab making a rice dish

Meal artists have previously used the kitchen at Woden Community Centre to cook their dishes but are excited to use a larger commercial kitchen space this year. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

This week the meal artists will have their first opportunity to use the Zeytin kitchen as the team prepares for a special dinner on Sunday (27 March) to celebrate International Women’s Day. The eight-course meal will feature three meal artists who will each cook a dish that is meaningful to them. As each dish is served, the women will have the chance to share stories about their food, culture and their lives.

“I want this event to be something really beautiful … a real celebration of the meal artists,” says Nazia.

“[We will] get to hear about all their important qualities: what makes them excited about the food that they cook, what’s been their journey with the food.”

Chef Metin Baran will be cooking traditional Turkish food and is keen to share some dishes that aren’t often available on the menu at Turkish restaurants, like the stuffed eggplant dish imam bayildi.

“I want to bring some traditional Turkish food and show people that we are not only doing kebab rolls!” he says.

Metin is also looking forward to the ongoing partnership with the Her Kitchen Table meal artists and is hopeful that initiatives like this can mirror the success of the Multicultural Festival and encourage Canberrans to try new things.

Chef looking at dish

Chef Metin Baran with stuffed eggplant dish imam bayildi. Photo: Supplied.

The hiatus has given Her Kitchen Table the opportunity to focus on training more meal artists to participate in the program. When they relaunch their online ordering system on 28 March, customers will have a wider variety of dishes to choose from.

“There will be a lot more nationalities represented because we have many more meal artists. For example, we’ve got some meal artists from Sierra Leone, so we’re sort of adding to the ethnicities and types of meals on offer.”

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They’ve taken on customer feedback and will add extra savoury options and empower their meal artists to cook lesser-known dishes.

“Other feedback we’ve had is that [customers] want to experience more authentic items, and items you wouldn’t necessarily get at a restaurant … so we’re going to work with the meal artists to brainstorm a little bit and think about those unique things that people wouldn’t usually taste.”

Nazia hopes that Her Kitchen Table can run several more dinner events throughout the year to expand the community and provide more opportunities for meal artists to share the food they love.

Event flyer for Food and Stories

Food & Stories is just the first in what Nazia hopes will be a series of events aimed at community cohesion. Image: Supplied.

Bookings are essential for the Food and Stories dinner event. Tickets are $110 for the eight-course meal, dietary requirements must be provided when booking.

Her Kitchen Table will relaunch online ordering for meals on 28 March via their website.

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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