KL’s Nowhere Kitchen turns edible leftovers into three-course meals


On a wet Saturday night, a drive alongside Old Klang Road in Kuala Lumpur elicits an orchestral background soundtrack of loud, manic booms as thunderous, livid rain cascades down from the heavens. And then as if on cue, the crescendo pitch wavers and magically offers solution to clear, unperturbed skies, simply as I flip into a nondescript street edged by automotive workshops and factories.

Soon, a delicate sundown emerges and nightfall bleeds its burnished orangey-red hues throughout the horizon. The stroll into the cavernous industrial warehouse that homes KongsiKL is not any much less illustrious, as twinkling lights adorn the doorway and set the stage for an evening of recent potentialities.

KongsiKL is an experimental area (housed in what was previously a stainless-steel manufacturing facility) used for cultivating and growing tradition and humanities – whether or not that’s by way of artwork, images or on this case – meals, through the platform of Nowhere Kitchen.

Despite the misnomer, Nowhere Kitchen is something however directionless. Designed as an improvisational artwork platform to share concepts by way of meals and dialog, the mission – and the thought course of behind it – was developed by Filipino artist Pepe Dayaw in Madrid in 2012.

Lian was part of the Nowhere Kitchen project in Berlin that staged cookouts using people’s leftovers and decided to recreate it in Malaysia a few months ago. — C K WAILian was a part of the Nowhere Kitchen mission in Berlin that staged cookouts utilizing folks’s leftovers and determined to recreate it in Malaysia a number of months in the past. — C Ok WAI

In Malaysia, the idea was dropped at life a number of months in the past by native architect Lian Kian Lek, who was a part of the group behind Nowhere Kitchen in Berlin, Germany. The principle of this mission hinges on a really attention-grabbing idea: leftovers.

Unlike many fancy restaurant dinners, leftovers type a starring function in Nowhere Kitchen, which sees paying friends bringing ins and outs from their residence kitchens, from coconut milk to carrots, which Lian and the group from KongsiKL then utilise and switch into a artistic three-course meal.

How it began

Lian is an structure graduate who spent 14 years working in Berlin. In 2014, he returned to Malaysia and began his personal apply referred to as Putti Coop within the Zhongshan Building in Kuala Lumpur. The apply focuses on collaborations with artists and inventive entities, which is how he ended up doing curations and installations for exhibitions and artwork occasions.

When KongsiKL approached Lian for a collaboration a number of months in the past, he proposed the thought of doing Nowhere Kitchen, one thing that he had helped his good friend Dayaw with in Germany. The thought to do one thing tangible to assist the humanities trade had additionally been germinating for the reason that introduction of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I suppose it started during the Covid-19 lockdown when the government announced that art is not essential. There were a lot of discussions around this and I just thought ‘What does this mean?’ I was quite angry, because art is my job. And these are the times when we need to be creative, innovative and empower people. If not through art, what else?” he says.

Each guest’s leftovers are photographed for posterity, after which the kitchen team separates the ingredients for possible use in entrees, main courses and desserts. Each visitor’s leftovers are photographed for posterity, after which the kitchen group separates the components for potential use in entrees, essential programs and desserts.

“So I proposed this project because I was part of the team in Berlin. When we did it there, it was more like a squatter kitchen, because we squatted in different apartments and kitchens and sometimes we even did it in the park!

“So we would cook over wood-fire in a little pot in the park or someone’s garden and it was quite amazing! Everyone had to bring a leftover and the meal was totally improvised,” he says.

Lian says he additionally realised {that a} idea like Nowhere Kitchen – whereas performative in nature – was ideally suited to Malaysians as a result of properly what else do Malaysians bond over, if not meals?

“I thought this was something where we could use cooking and a dinner to do a performance. So if you imagine a theatre or a dance, it is just about removing the dancing and music with dinner and conversation.

All the cutlery and tableware used for Nowhere Kitchen has been either found or donated and are often mismatched.All the cutlery and tableware used for Nowhere Kitchen has been either found or donated and are often mismatched.

“And what is more suitable than food and eating for the Malaysian culture – it is what our culture is orientated around. And then KongsiKL got excited about the project and we thought ‘Let’s do it three or four times and see what the response is like and test the waters,’” explains Lian.

The audio system

Since beginning Nowhere Kitchen in March 2022, response has been excellent. Each dinner is held as soon as a month and has the capability for 20 diners. Each Nowhere Kitchen entails totally different lightings and settings, so every version is a singularly distinctive variation of efficiency artwork.

One of the highlights of those dinners is each the truth that diners convey leftovers from their very own properties in addition to that every dinner options two invited audio system (usually one man and one girl) who speak about a specific theme, oscillating round meals.

Each edition of the dinner involves different lighting and table settings, and is treated as different iterations of performance art.Each version of the dinner entails totally different lighting and desk settings, and is handled as totally different iterations of efficiency artwork.

Invited audio system have included Diane Ong, founding father of Awesome Canteen and Justin Cheah from Kechara Soup Kitchen, which serves homeless and marginalised communities – who talked about meals and wastage and their very own struggles of their each day work.

Another set up of Nowhere Kitchen noticed Chinese natural drugs practitioner and registered pharmacist Shirley Chong in addition to chef Ang Ling Chee, who was as soon as the top chef at famed English chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s eatery – speaking in regards to the therapeutic powers of meals.

One of the preferred iteration of Nowhere Kitchen concerned biodynamic farmer Ng Tien Khuan who spoke about farming and sustainability. At Nowhere Kitchen #5, which I attended, invited audio system included bubbly meals persona and tv host Ili Sulaiman and artist and photographer Jeffrey Lim, each of whom talked in regards to the style of recollections, invoking engrossing tales from their childhoods and weaving by way of private experiences as diners listened in rapt consideration, absorbing every part they needed to say.

The proven fact that audio system are invited provides an attention-grabbing component to Nowhere Kitchen because it isn’t only a easy dinner or perhaps a theatrical magic present the place leftovers get remodeled into meals. There is a communal, conversational component to all the expertise which transforms what might be one-dimensional into an inventive showcase the place meals, folks and storytelling converge.

Interestingly, the group at Kongsi KL – additionally referred to as the artist group, which contains Lian and 4 different people, together with Kongsi KL’s supervisor Mah Jun Yi – don’t intervene within the dinners in any respect, besides to introduce the audio system and serve the meals. According to Lian, this was accomplished deliberately.

“So the artist team is not involved in the conversation, because very often an art performance has a lot of messaging from the artist or creators, but with this, we are able to take a step back.

Each Nowhere Kitchen also includes invited speakers, like food personality Ili Sulaiman and artist Jeffrey Lim who talked about the taste of memories.Each Nowhere Kitchen also includes invited speakers, like food personality Ili Sulaiman and artist Jeffrey Lim who talked about the taste of memories.

“In this way, the participants at the dinner become performers and the dinner is the performance. So people can decide what they want to share and what they want to do when they go back to their everyday lives and how to make a change or impact in their own lives,” says Lian.

The leftovers

So how does a hodgepodge of raw leftovers get turned into a tangible meal? This is an attention-grabbing query and one which Nowhere Kitchen tackles nimbly and sure-footedly.

Diners who join the occasion convey an assortment of leftovers, with greens main the pack. At the Nowhere Kitchen iteration that I attended for example, leftovers included dried shiitake mushrooms, rooster slices, bread and jackfruit.

“Everything goes because first of all it is quite hard to limit what people should bring, because we don’t know what they have and the amount also. Like sometimes one person brings in just one papaya, but then one another person brings in yoghurt, so it’s perfect because we can have that together. Surprisingly every time, it works,” explains Lian.

Leong and his two teammates only have an hour to figure out how to fashion a three-course meal out of random uncooked leftovers that paying guests bring. Leong and his two teammates solely have an hour to determine find out how to trend a three-course meal out of random raw leftovers that paying friends convey.

At Kongsi KL, a group of three do all of the brainstorming and cooking for Nowhere Kitchen. The kitchen operations are headed by Leong Yew Weng, a former chef on a cruise ship who has additionally has an architectural background.

Leong says to place collectively the meals for Nowhere Kitchen, he and his teammates Erica Choong and Daryl Tan first separate all of the leftovers that individuals convey into three classes, relying on their potential utilization: entrees, essential course and desserts. From there, the trio determine what they’re going to make for the evening, with Lian and Mah offering enter all through.

“We have discussions with the team in the kitchen and we bounce ideas about what goes well with what, that’s basically how we do it. It’s a bit challenging because my biggest worry and concern is we don’t have enough food to feed people.

“It is such a different experience from cooking in a restaurant because you really cannot gauge what people will bring so it really triggers your creativity and it’s also about cooking under pressure, because we are only given an hour to come up with three or four courses,” explains Leong.

Nearly every leftover that people bring (from chocolates to jackfruit) get utilised to make meals like this keropok lekor with santan sauce served alongside jackfruits, walnuts and chocolate.Nearly each leftover that folks convey (from candies to jackfruit) get utilised to make meals like this keropok lekor with santan sauce served alongside jackfruits, walnuts and chocolate.

The group retains a set of staples within the kitchen like rice, flour, noodles and vinegar and re-use some components from earlier editions of Nowhere Kitchen like pickled gherkins, kaya and dried chillies. If somebody brings in a vegetable that’s about to go off, Leong places it into the compost bin, so on this manner, nothing ever goes to waste and all of the components finally get repurposed. Interestingly, even the cutlery and tableware has been discovered or donated for the mission!

Previous editions of Nowhere Kitchen have yielded multi-course meals like bruschetta, banana and peanut butter spring rolls, pan fried ikan patin and grilled aubergine with native bak choy braised in butter. During Nowhere Kitchen #5, Leong says his aim was to make hearty, heat, soothing meals to imitate each the theme for the evening – ‘Taste of Memories’ in addition to to sate the coldness created by the rain that night.

The consequence was a meal to recollect – a nourishing tomato soup made utilizing a mixture of spaghetti sauce and tomato paste leftover from a earlier set up of the dinner, served alongside crusty toasted sourdough bread (introduced in as a leftover). The soup was served piping sizzling and was really actually yummy, with wealthy tomatoey notes undulating all through.

Next up was a healthful stew of plump shiitake mushrooms, rooster and carrots served alongside rice – a easy, nice meal that was as satisfying because it was nutritive.

A previous iteration of Nowhere Kitchen saw the creation of this beautiful meal of banana and peanut butter spring rolls with glutinous rice and flowers.A earlier iteration of Nowhere Kitchen noticed the creation of this stunning meal of banana and peanut butter spring rolls with glutinous rice and flowers.

The dessert – original by Leong – was made up of keropok lekor with a coconut-milk primarily based sauce and jackfruit and chocolate served on the aspect. It had a mixture of candy, savoury and every part in between and ended the meal on a enjoyable, festive be aware.

All in all, the meal was considerate and well-paced, neither an excessive amount of nor too little and gave folks an perception into how leftovers can really be turned into completely new meals. This is exceedingly related in fashionable occasions, as meals wastage is a perennial downside, with Malaysians dumping over 4,000 tonnes of meals every day!

Perhaps a part of the issue is that most individuals merely don’t know what to do once they have random bits of meals clogging up their chillers. In the previous, folks solely purchased or grew what they wanted and old school residence cooks have been significantly expert at fashioning meals out of ins and outs and leftovers.

Today, this apply doesn’t actually exist and shoppers are pushed to prolific waste. So in some ways, except for its inventive function, Nowhere Kitchen serves as each a mannequin of what could be accomplished and an academic platform, one which exhibits in a really possible way how leftovers can be utilized to make sensible meals.

There is no barrier to the quantity or type of uncooked leftovers that people can bring (except that it should be pork-free so as to ensure inclusivity). There is not any barrier to the amount or kind of raw leftovers that folks can convey (besides that it ought to be pork-free in order to make sure inclusivity).

“I was brought up this way, to be mindful and not to waste stuff – if I left one grain of rice, I got a smack on the head, so I believe Nowhere Kitchen is useful in teaching participants how to make use of leftovers.

“Even when everyone brings in small portions of something, we use it to make like rice bowls and layer the bowl with each ingredient. When we had a pumpkin, we made pumpkin soup and someone else brought bread, so we served it alongside the soup.

“So I think it is really great, because everyone chips in with what they have and from that, you have a dinner experience,” says Lian.

Despite the curiosity Lian has acquired for Nowhere Kitchen, he says he’ll solely proceed to run it if there’s a demand for it.

“For me, I see this as an art project that can only be sustained if enough people think it is important or if there is a place for something like this. If people find it interesting, then yes, it can be run twice a month or even in different locations,” he says.

Find out extra about Nowhere Kitchen through @putticooperation on Instagram.

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