The story of Senait’s Kitchen / OneLoveKitchen / Options has been a learning experience for us all. We began this journey in March, 2015 when we met Senait at Babel, a day centre for migrants and refugees located in Kypseli. After talking for a while we decided to try out Senait’s Eritrean cooking skills by doing a PopUp restaurant in Exarcheia, Athens. The event went very well and we realised that this could become a form of self-employment for Senait. We then met other “newcomers” at the free social space Nosotros which were also aspiring chefs. After talking together as a group, we formed a collective called OneLoveKitchen, and we started doing more events around Athens. We all agreed that the organisers would volunteer and the cooks would split the profits.
Among the participants were people originating from Senegal, The Gambia, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Nigeria, and Sudan. Throughout the Spring, there were events where different members participated to varying degrees. We all worked together and it took a lot of energy (and was quite chaotic), but the events were well attended and people kept asking for more! In addition, Sara, Senait, Sherkh, Katalin, Omar, Thanassis, Esther, Penny, Adis, Loretta, Jeff and others all became close friends as we navigated the way to create more events and move the collective forward.
Eventually there was the idea to stop organising the events ourselves and start catering the events of other organisations as our group’s coordination and planning skills improved. We were starting from scratch since very few of us had experience cooking for such large groups of people, but it turns out the cooking was the least of the challenges.
Then came our first big gig! We were asked to cater an event for about 200 people for the INURA conference that took place in Athens at the end of August, 2015. We assembled a team of three of the most experienced chefs and they really delivered a feast! The venue for the event was the occupied theatre EMBROS.
The event was a hit! the food flew off the buffet line and we received countless compliments. This cemented the idea to focus on catering since it requires less effort from our volunteers, and earns more money for the cooks. The volunteers also help with the cooking and logistics, but that’s the most fun part!
So that brings us up to the present, after many events and a lot of experience, we are opening a catering cooperative and a FoodLab (a professional kitchen and co-working space for food training) in Athens, Greece. So far, we have been buying catering equipment with the proceeds from our events which are owned collectively and we are looking for a space to have as our “base”, because we are still nomadic! -and that’s where the “Options” FoodLab comes into being, but more on that in the future…