stroke Open Kitchen   Art, Food and friends in Brussels, Belgium

A little feather stroking at Open Kitchen

Today our correspondent, Gilbert, brings us his review of Open Kitchen, a new Brussels initiative combining food, art and meeting new people, in the city.

If you stroke my face with a feather of course I’ll come back.

I recently attended my first Open Kitchen evening in Brussels.

The creator of the idea, Manuel Pueyo, brings together people who like socialising, and want a change from the usual bar hopping, in an evening of food, drink and performances.

Each month, Manuel and the team arrange a gathering in someone’s home. On my first night, we were hosted by Christophe Meierhans, Anna Rispoli, their toddler and their cat. I mention all four because they were all fully active participants, to varying degrees, throughout the night.

On this occasion, Christophe and Anna opened up their home to use, while Mayara Wal and Dani Wal took over the kitchen and set about cooking for about 35 people. That’s the Open Kitchen aspect of the evening. Open up your cool home to strangers and let the magic happen.

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Mistresses of the Open Kitchen – Mayara and Dani Wal

Shortly after some starters and soup, we were treated to the first performance. It was a screening of a film by Sachiyo Honda called Blackhole, Whitehole.

The name refers to her time spent in Cappadocia in Turkey. The region is famous for its houses hewn out of the mountainsides. The blackhole was her moving from the light into the dark of what is essentially a cave. And yes, you guessed it, the white light is her exiting the cave from the darkness into the light. Same place, same door, just seen from two very different perspectives.

Sachiyo, was present to provide a live soundtrack to the film and occasionally dip into the assembled audience to stroke their faces with feathers. No need to reread that sentence, you read right.

First, Thumbs up to Christophe and Anna for having a great wall on which to project the film. You certainly gave me some ideas for my apartment. Secondly, as is to be expected with any arts performance in a domestic home, there were certain elements of, well , let’s call them serendipity shall we, otherwise known as cats and small children that introduce themselves part way through the performance.

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Hanging out in the Cat-chen

But that’s part of the fun of this in-home experience. It also gives you a bit of a conversation starter with which to gently inveigle yourself into the next group of strangers, if you’re a bit on the shy side.

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No party in Belgium is complete without beer

Freely flowing wine, beer and caipirinhas during the post-main course, pre-dessert concert also kept the conversation moving. Yes, that’s right, we were treated to not one, but two performances.

Our second performance of the evening featured Cumali Bulduk and Paul Takahashi playing the Saz, a Turkish version of the more traditional Oud. They just sat down on the sofa and started playing a set of about six songs from their album. The audience was attentive and a mellow mood settled over the room.

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Cumali Bulduk and Paul Takahashi supply the musical entertainment

By the end of the performance, I realised nearly five hours had flown by, chatting, people watching, listening and eating and it was time to head off for the last metro, content and still curious about the whole event.

So who will you meet? It’s a mixed bag. Really it is. There were people of all ages. Artists, bureaucrats and all forms of life in between. Brussels personified really.

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Brussels personified – A celebration of nationalities and backgrounds

Is it about the food? Not really. The food is an achievement. Cooking for such as large group always is. But, don’t be fooled by the name, this is not a foodie event. As I said at the beginning, this was my first Open Kitchen, so that may not be an objective measure, as I can’t compare it to others, but I did sound out my fellow Open Kitcheners and they were there for the people and performance, not to discover the latest trends in food.

So will I go back? Yes, probably, feathers or not. Wednesday nights are a good choice and let’s face it, it’s always great to see around other people’s apartments. Should you go? Hell yes. Everyone should try it once and, as the summer months approach, I’m sure Manuel and his Open Kitchen crew are going to be organising some fantastic terrace parties.

[PHOTOS BY: Paloma Cabeza]