Newtown local, Rachel Jelley is a “conscious cook” who adores food so much she threw in her corporate gig to spend her life doing delicious things. What’s a conscious cook I hear you ask? Rachel holds a firm belief that food and cooking plays a broader role in our lives – it’s a way to re-connect with ourselves and nature, honour ancient rituals and enjoy meditative moments, while nourishing ourselves from the abundance of what nature provides to us.
Rachel is the creator and master behind “My Newtown Kitchen” and hosts seasonal pop up restaurants and conscious cooking workshops. It was after a recent night of devouring deliciousness at her Autumn Harvest feast pop up, held in a secret warehouse location in Marrickville, that inspired us to share her with you. Quite frankly it would be rude not to!
Rachel’s experience is about immersing all the senses. Hosted in a raw industrial, back of no-where, warehouse decked out in fairy lights (who doesn’t love raw industrial and fairy lights?) with an enormous communal table overflowing with seasonal flowers and autumn delights to gather around and enjoy a meal.
Rachel carefully curates the menu – the Autumn harvest commenced with a serve of delightful steak tartare and mussel mayonnaise, pickled kelp, ssam jang (a spicy Korean dressing), and seaweed confetti – it was fresh, pasture raised and attune to the taste buds. The main – butter roasted chicken with sage, garlic, bacon and parsley oil (according to Rachel, a metric F@#$ tonne of butter was stuffed between the skin and flesh of this fat fowl, I mean lovely chicken…), with a side of whole baked sweet little dumpling pumpkins – filled with leaks, bacon, blue cheese and thyme (oh my god, I can still taste these as I type). To cap the night off, a finale of poached quinces with torched meringue, vanilla custard and candied pistachios for desert. Are you salivating yet?
Rachel’s passion for food is infectious, her enthusiasm – rich, her concept – unique, so we naturally wanted to know more. Here’s what inspired Rachel’s “My Newtown Kitchen”:
Tell us the story behind, and what made you create My Newtown Kitchen: “I’ve always loved cooking at home and I spent all my spare time doing just that, but all the bellies in my house were getting over-filled, so I started holding pop up warehouse dinners to expand my belly real estate.
In early 2017 I held my first pop up and I absolutely loved it! My business grew so I left my corporate job and now spend my days and nights holding pop up feasts and conscious cooking workshops where I teach people how to use cooking to connect within, and create yummy food that nourishes both their bellies and their hearts.”
What is the history behind your passion for food and cooking from the earth? “I see cooking as a celebration of the magic of nature – I live my life very much by the seasons and the wheel of the year. Living in big cities means that many of us are really disconnected from the natural rhythms, cycles and seasons of the earth. For me cooking is about maintaining that connection, treating every ingredient with the respect and reverence it deserves, and working with the cycles of the seasons.
I also believe that food nourishes us on more than just a nutritional level, it’s received such a bad rap from the ‘wellness movement’ and body image standards that have pervaded our society. I’m here to show people that food is here for us to cherish, to fill our bellies with love.”
What do you love the most about hosting pop up dinners – where do you get your creative inspiration? “I love everything from the creative process to the cooking, creating a beautiful experience for my guests and sharing the beautiful stories behind the dishes and ingredients with everyone.
When I start to conceptualise a dinner, I really feel into the season and generally find myself drawn to a particular concept or ingredient for each course from what’s around me. Nature is so clever – she’s always giving us just what we need to nourish ourselves at any given time. I start to test and refine my concepts from there, and this creative process tends to lead me until I have three gorgeous courses full of the energy of the season they represent.
The same goes for the floral display I create for the table, it’s an expression of the season – I want to provide an immersive experience for my guests, they’re not only eating the food of the season, they’re immersed visually in it as well.”
What do you love the most about hosting the cooking workshops? “I love showing people a different way to interact with food. My classes are not about a perfect end result, although I do teach cooking techniques as part of them, and we create delicious dishes. My classes are about joy and bringing love into the kitchen, understanding that we’re connecting with nature, about revering the seasons and understanding why it’s so important to be aware of them. I encourage an all-in approach, meaning ALL hands in bowls at ALL times, it’s so lovely to watch people let their guard down, stop worrying about ‘doing it wrong’ or not getting it as perfect as the picture in a recipe book, and enjoying the actual process of cooking something truly nourishing. “
What are your top local places to source produce?
- Feather and Bone – “I source all my meat for home and my business from this amazing butchery. They are completely committed to only selling meat from farmers who practice the highest standards of animal welfare, and who also give back to the land they work on.”
- Sift Produce – “Georgie sources the most amazing fruits and vegetables direct from small, local farms, the majority of whom use organic and/or biodynamic practices.”
- Zavaglias Gourmet Produce – “Carmel and John grow THE BEST zucchinis ever. Carmel is down at Carriageworks Farmers Market every Saturday selling her delicious zucchinis and lots of other yumminess too.“
- Block 11 Organics – “Greg and his family have gorgeous vegies and fruit on offer every Saturday at Carriageworks Farmers Market.”
What can we expect next from My Newtown Kitchen? “I’m spending the 2018 Australian winter in Mexico soaking up all the amazing food inspiration – so there will be lots more super fun events on the way entering into spring.”
We were really inspired by Rachel. You too can join the experience. Places are limited so be quick and sign up to the mailing list www.mynewtownkitchen.com.au to be notified when the spring calendar of events is released, oh and head to Facebook and social media for delicious pics of Rachel’s Mexican travels.
Annika and Blake