If I were a room in a house, I would be the kitchen. It is the center of creativity, of love and comfort. So much of our day-to-day takes place within this space, so many important life moments. Think of the conversations shared, the parties that wind up squished within kitchen walls, despite efforts to move into the living room. I love long conversations and glasses of wine shared while a meal cooks away on the stove, stories recounted as vegetables are sliced for soup, flour is sifted for bread––all efforts to create something to enjoy together. I love that the kitchen is where everyone wants to be, and I love that at its core, it is a place of nourishment and sustenance. After all, we’ve all got to eat.
For the last seven years of my life, I’ve baked as a pastry chef in kitchens from New Orleans to New Zealand, while in search of adventure and purpose. I have also been making art, thinking in color and line and shape, since…well, forever. I’ve always wanted to be an artist, beginning when I was five years old and I entered a Campbell’s Soup label competition (I still have the paper certificate I received for that effort). So naturally, my love of drawing, food and creating led me in search of a place where they could intersect.
Last fall, my partner and I spent four months traveling Europe. We began in Bulgaria and then moved onward to Italy and France. For five weeks, we were fortunate enough to be offered a home in Tuscany, and for those five weeks––without possessing European Union permits––we could not work. We could only be—in Italy, soaking up the little medieval town, eating fresh Pecorino Romano drizzled with honey and drinking lots of chianti. Life was dreamy, and I felt grateful every day. Without work to fill our time, new space was created to enjoy and explore. And this season re-opened the illustrating world to me.
Being nomadic is exciting and full of possibility—it is also sometimes lonely and destabilizing. The way I addressed my homesickness was to connect with the kitchen spaces around me––and to people through this universal way. By reaching out to other makers I admire for their culinary talents, to the people with whom I share a passion of creating and cooking and baking.
And so my kitchen drawing series was born. I began with my own kitchens––my rented kitchen in Sofia, Bulgaria, a newly renovated apartment space, sleek and grey and white; our kitchen in Tuscany, all terra cotta and wood and tile. Then I branched out, contacting those that inspired me: Emily Hilliard of the blog, Nothing in the House Pie, who shared with me a photo of herself, bent over a KitchenAid mixing bowl, delicate wrists whisking away at some delicious concoction in a simple and beautiful moment of pie making. I drew Yossy Arefi of the blog Apt.2B Baking Co., and Johanna Kindvall, a fellow food illustrator who created a beautiful book about Fika, the art of the Swedish coffee break. I was beginning to see a real series, unfolding all on its own.
Above: Emily Hilliard
Above: Yossy Arefi
Above: Johanna Kindval
By illustrating makers in their natural creative environments, in highlighting the simplicity and elegance and magic by which I feel so comforted in my own kitchen, I could always find a sense of home. Every kitchen may have its own character, but it provides the same basic tools and staples that give a sense of order, of purpose and comfort.
While this series is a work in progress, it has created that space for me to combine my love of food, art and the home, and has provided an avenue to pursue illustration as a career rather than a hobby. It is amazing to see what can come of giving yourself the space and time to dream, to ask yourself what would you do if you could do anything in the world, and see where that road takes you.
I hope that in this series, readers will find similar comfort in familiar visual stories, and see the beauty in the passing moments we all share together within these cooking spaces.
Above: Molly Reeder
Above: Polina Chesnakova
Above: Tara Jenson