Ever walk into a kitchen where eighteen different people cook, friends pool money to save up for major appliances, chore fines are dealt out if you forget to wash dishes and when all the pot-holders are in the laundry, a 20 year old dude just takes off his shirt to lift the piping hot kettle?
Today we tour the Biko House cooperative's kitchen in Isla Vista, California with Katy McCarthy. Join us as we explore this unique kitchen space.
Katy is the food shopper and kitchen organizer (and amazing cook!) in the Biko House Co-op. She's an art student with a flair for home cooking and recipes that are easily adaptable to scaling way up or subbing ingredients she has on hand. The Biko house kitchen feeds eighteen university students three times per day, with breakfast and lunch as 'open fridge' meals (i.e. prepare the food yourself with the stocked fridge and pantry) and dinner as a sit down affair served between 6 and 9pm.
The co-op is essentially subsidized housing/eating, with a strong sense of community. The friendships and bonds formed Katy said have a lot to do with the 'family dinner' served every night. "Cookers" (students assigned to food prep duties) are praised for ambitious recipes — velvety butternut squash soup as well as mussels sautéed in wine sauce were two main dishes that flew off the table, without any leftovers. Farmers markets and cooperative groceries are the mainstays of where the shoppers buy food, sometimes they receive donations of fresh produce.
The kitchen's crown jewel is the industrial grade Wolf Stove, complete with eight burners and two ovens. The sink is a typical restaurant, stainless steel operation with a high-pressure hose spray nozzle. It gets the job done when dishes for eighteen or more (lots of guests/friends are invited) are frequent dinner numbers.
The cupboards hold an ever-changing selection of cooking equipment, appliances, plate and silverware. As students come and go, they add to the collection, often adding to the kitchen for the time they live there, then taking their pots and pans with them as they graduate. I spotted a beautiful, large Le Creuset Dutch oven in the midst of thrift store cookware and beat-up work horse pots. This ebb and flow of ideas, amount of students eating and using the space and the rotating list of equipment make this kitchen the most dynamic I've ever visited.
Read on for Katy's take on keeping up such a remarkable endeavor.
10 Questions for Katy (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I am inspired by the idea of cooking en mass. Family style to the nth degree. Gallons of soup and pounds of quinoa. I love using the big pot — its volume inspires me to fill it with goodness.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
The painted ceiling and the stereo.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
I don't know, it's been a busy quarter (I'm in school) and someone makes dinner every week night. We've had some pretty memorable meals as a house: three course fondue, local Santa Barbara mussels in white wine with homemade whole wheat bread, roll-your-own vegan sushi. We have some incredible vegan chefs here. Keep in mind those dinners are for 18 people. Every dinner here is a dinner party. Personally, when I get a minute to cook I've been perfecting my curry.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Sharing the avocados.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently? [if renovated]
We're getting renovated in the summer! New windows, more counter space (hallelujah), a whole slew of updates.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
Our tool set of kitchen equipment is just a big potpourri of great things left or donated or shared: three Crock-Pots, a few dehydrators, a heap of pots and pans.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
Maybe a miniature mural.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Reckless, grainy and experimental — like a good film.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Always cook with wine.
10. What are you cooking this week?
Finals week style menu: Quinoa & kale & tofu.
• Check out Katy's work: Katy McCarthy
• Stove: Wolf
• Dishwasher: Our hands
• Pots/Pans: eclectic mix of things left behind and what new residents bring
• Food processor: Cuisinart
Thank you so much Katy for letting us peek into your kitchen!
Related: Ariana's Charming Bavarian Kitchen
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)