BENJAMIN VAN GELDER & MIRIAM MARTÍN PRICE
(FOUNDERS OF COOKS IN TOWN)
Every person has his own story, without it what is left? This one starts as nice stories do, with a bit of love, sugar and eggplant.
MIRIAM: Benjamin and I met in January of 2014, when we had just started our master in Madrid. We got to know each other better the day Ben tried to steal some eggplant from my plate (I had only met him 10 min before!). It was only around March when he told me about his idea of innovating in the food industry. Because I was then very close to him, I have been present during the different changes and challenges of the process.
Cooks in town was born and I had a strong interest in what he was aiming to do: taking back food traditions into our current lifestyles. I see Cooks in town as a fresh, challenging and passionate idea that is worth trying. In a way, I also see myself as a reflection of the elements that the project has behind: tradition, creativity, sharing, food and people.
BENJAMIN: I’m going to tell you a secret. I’m not a chef. I will never be able to cook a three Michelin stars meal and I don’t aim to. But when I cook, it’s all about transmitting passion and enjoying the special moment of sharing it with people.
When I was studying in Brussels four years ago I told a friend that I would like to organise dinners in people’s kitchens and also cool spots in town, but sadly I left this as an idea. In 2014, I finally realised that I had to do something about it.
I wanted to start a project that would have a positive impact on society by using existing resources but connecting them in innovative ways. I found the best way to do it was to create a community inspired by food, slow cooking and the pleasure of reunion. It was then that I met Miriam. And after my eggplant failed attempt, only a sugar call could save us. While sharing a cup of coffee and cake I realised she had a place in Cooks in town. Since then, she has been and continue to be the most inspirational person I’ve met.
It is from your past stories and life experiences that you build your future. I have always loved cooking and I remember trying out or making up recipes in my mothers’ kitchen. But as you can imagine my first experiences were, as every child, kind of chaotic.
The luxury of having access to that kitchen ended when I went to university and moved into a shared flat, where I didn’t have enough space or tools and where there was always someone else cooking. You get the picture. However, what might seem like a bad experience led to some very interesting discoveries. Yes, the space where I cooked was messy, but I learned the beauty of sharing the kitchen with different people.
Now I strongly believe that you are what you eat, but also that the environment where you cook influences your daily life. “Mens sana in corpore sano” the latins would say. This is the goal we should aim every single day of our existence. Cooking is a social act that has to be lived and shared with the largest community possible. Kitchens used to be the heart of our homes, the space of reunion, and I want to get back that tradition to bring people together in new ways.
In a full-time running society, we should take a break. Each day we are requested to be connected by technology. This situation has reached to a point that can damage and affect the sustainability of our lives. Take time for yourself and the ones you love. What better than preparing the perfect homemade meal like your grandma used to do. Do you remember that smell when she would open the oven?
MIRIAM: My own story is much shaped by food. It goes back to what my grandmother impregnated on my father and him to me. We are what we eat and our quality of life depends mainly on the food we buy, cook and eat - lesson learned. I soon developed a strong interest in baking and cooking. My dad is an inspiration in the kitchen, he’s a natural - not a professional cook however. Instead he takes the greatest pleasure in cooking for the ones he loves as a way to please others and show affection. Baking, on the other hand, has never been his thing. I took that from my mother and English auntie, who bought me my first baking recipe books and taught me the basics.
When I’m cooking I find different purposes every time. It can be a great way to show love and affection for others (and yourself) but it can help to relax and disconnect too, both from work and our devices. You see it’s very tricky to answer the phone when your hands are working the dough and to be honest, I just don’t want to answer anyway - it would spoil the moment. It is my time to enjoy and value the cooking or baking itself.
Big or small gatherings with family and friends have always been a good excuse to share food. A primitive social act that we want to rediscover. It all comes down to being present, both while cooking and eating. And the more people whom to share it with, the better is all tastes!
What we wish for Cooks in town is that it will introduce a new culture around sharing food in new ways. We wish that this home cooking experience will make “staying in” the new “going out”. But above all, we hope Cooks in town will inspire others as others have inspired us.