“My mom was an amazing cook,” Céline Mauboules reflects as she prepares dinner in her East Vancouver home’s kitchen. “I miss her dearly and I have so many questions for her.”
Mauboules is using her mother’s cast iron pan to sear the venison for tonight’s meal. As a few guests watch and lend a hand where needed, Mauboules prepares a six-course Swiss dinner inspired by the recipes of her family. From späetzli egg noodles in nutmeg and butter to green salad drizzled with her Oma’s special dressing, the menu reads more like a family gathering than a meal among strangers. But that is exactly what In My Kitchen wants.
The new Vancouver pop-up dinner experience brings guests into the homes of hobby cooks to learn about the food of their backgrounds. From Spain to Japan to the Middle East, In My Kitchen’s hosts are diverse and exciting, allowing locals to experience a different side of foodie culture. Part cooking class and part pop-up restaurant, it is one of the most unique and intimate dining experiences in the city.
“I love the idea of bringing people together and having conversations over food,” Mauboules, who was born in Switzerland and moved to Canada as a kid, says. For her, cooking is a way to connect to her late mother, who died of cancer many years ago; the späetzli pasta recipe that she serves tonight, in fact, is printed in her mother’s handwriting.
In My Kitchen launched in April 2018 by Paula Mohammed, who grew up in a melting pot of cultures thanks to her father, from India, and her mother, from New Zealand. Though her professional background is in sports marketing and event management, Mohammed has always had a special connection with food, and she eventually decided that she wanted to create an immersive, personal experience for herself and others. “I have a passion for food and the connection that happens around food,” she says, seated on Mauboules’s couch. She found her host cooks by putting up flyers around East Vancouver; once she made her final selection, each person went through food safety training and worked on a presentation that includes personal history, family anecdotes, and culinary inspiration.
At the end of the meal—because of course, after you cook, you must eat—guests go home with a special keepsake (in this case, Oma’s salad dressing) and are sent a PDF that breaks down the dishes. “I wanted these recipes to be able to be made at home so that you can make them for your family and share some of the culture,” Mohammed explains. By connecting strangers over plates of home-cooked food, In My Kitchen breaks down not only cultural barriers, but urban ones, too. Vancouver can often feel isolating and lacking in community, but stepping into someone else’s space and working together to connect and create is one sure form of antidote.
Coincidentally, it turns out that this author lives just a short walk away from Mauboules, though we had never met before. “Maybe,” Mauboules says when it comes time to leave, “I’ll see you around the neighbourhood.”