Words by Ronja Penzo
Photography by Food Studio, Kristoffer Paulsen & Svein Gunnar Kjøde
Cecilie Dawes and Eva De Moor share an idea that food is much more than just a meal. It’s an experience, and a feeling, inspiration and knowledge; it is the people you share it with. This is the heart of Food Studio, a food collective offering gatherings and getaways, seasoned with information and inspiration involving people’s approach to sustainable food. In a sunlit backyard, hidden from the world outside, I had the pleasure of meeting the founders to discuss food, the social aspects surrounding it and the importance of a joyful, healthy living.
Food is something we all have to relate to every day, and we can choose if we want to embrace it as something creative or not. Food has always been an important part of Cecilie’s life, but in a very unconscious way. She used to study Finance and Resource development at the old agricultural university, where food science was her green profile. But it wasn’t until she was older that she realizedfood was her path in life.
"When I was younger I had lots of headaches, was allergic and had heavy eczema. At one point, I traveled to Hawaii for six months to study, and I met a guy who had cancer and treated it with food. When I heard that story, I figured that there is something really wrong with the way we disconnect food and medicine. After my studies I worked for five years on product development and innovation at Deli de Luca, fast food outlet, and got to see how food was traded nationally in Norges Gruppen, which represents what most of us eat. I soon realized how bad this system was and made a decision to make a positive change. That was the beginning of Food Studio."
Food Studio came to life in 2011 and is about sharing stories of people who believe in good and honest food—food that tastes good, has a positive impact on our health, food that’s responsibly produced, food that is a result of plants and animals being treated well, and food that inspires us. It started out as small events and inspiring happenings with friends, and evolved into a collective. Eva joined one and a half year ago.
"We didn’t have a clear direction at first, so we let the project evolve by itself, naturally and without distractions. In time, more and more amazing people joined us, and it slowly evolved into what Food Studio is today. It’s been a creative and dynamic process. Yet, at one point it had grown too fast. That’s when Eva came on board."
Eva joined them to help narrow it all down—they had to figure out the heart of Food Studio. They wanted to take people out of their everyday lives, invite them into the wild and teach them how to connect with the food and its origin. At these events, someone who was passionate about honest food would come and share their story and know-ledge. The girls love how the project also involves the guests—where they bring their own backpack of ingredients. This way they hope the guests will feel some kind of ownership of the getaway.
As a creative space, Food Studio is very visual, and the people that come on these trips are usually open and curious. They focus on smaller gatherings where fifteen people can enroll—this way it’s easier to get to know each other.
"The social aspect of it is very important to us. I love it when we can feel the discussions around the table. Yet we sometimes stage bigger events with up to hundred and twenty guests," Cecilie explains.
"You’re sharing plates and food with many people, so you have to cooperate. The first time I attended one of these events, there were a few people who didn’t quite understand the concept and four people ate for the equivalent of eight. It was rather funny. I don’t think we’re used to the idea of sharing in Norway," Eva adds.
After two months visiting Australia and Japan to connect and learn from like-minded people, they both felt very inspired. They visited the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, where they held a Food Studio event with Tim Verney, Nina Sahraoui and Jenni Bryant.
"It was nice to see the project in a new environment and we met so many great people. We spent a lot of time learning to know the place and the locals—an interesting way of exploring the city. We visited a farm called Grown and Gathered, founded by a young couple who supply the locals with veggie boxes," Eva explains.
–We found the couple very interesting and they had many exciting side projects, such as growing flowers and giving people the opportunity to exchange anything they had at hand, and get flowers in return. It was their favorite project. Exchange trading is such a wonderful thing! We have always practiced it, but not in a structured way like that, although you always ends up in a win-win situation.
On one occasion, Cecilie and Eva exchanged a greenhouse for a garden. Everyone was happy—the farmer got a new greenhouse and Cecilie and Eva got the best venue for an upcoming dinner event.
Much has happened since Food Studio started and Cecilie and Eva can see a change in people’s approach to sustainable food. Oslo Kooperativet, a cooperative offering people bags packed with healthy, organic and local vegetables, was founded in 2013. Cecilie points to this as one of the best and healthiest initiatives regarding food in Oslo, ever.
"Oslo Kooperativet has been a major success and it shows how keen people have been for an alternative," says Cecilie.
What we’ve seen of Food Studio so far is only the beginning. Cecilie and Eva have great ambitions with this project but it’s important for them to find a way for it to sustain itself financially in the long term. One thing is certain, Food Studio wants to continue exchanging experiences, knowledge and inspiration, as well as building important networks with different environments in other cities and countries.
"Our biggest goal is to make a change in the food system—we want the future of food to be healthier. To be able to do that, we must continue to reach out to more people. We are now involved in a research project on social involvement and we are establishing more ways to work educationally wise. We’ve been talking about writing a book and holding a conference, they tell me."
In addition to this, Food Studio is hosting a few events during the year, most of them located in Norway. It’s clear that both Cecilie and Eva have their hands full, yet they somehow find time to unwind and relax in between projects. They regard this as very important, since it’s easy to fall straight into one project after finishing another. Suddenly you end up losing the direction of where you were headed. They reckon this is typical when you work with something creative.
This is important for both of them, and Cecilie and Eva will continue this steady work process— gathering inspiration and knowledge as they go, but also finding time to smell the roses. In this way, Food Studio can evolve naturally and slowly, on safe and healthy ground. Much like nature’s order.