A Chef Brings Georgian Supra to London – The Wall Street Journal
11 February, 2016
Raised in southern Ukraine, London-based Olia Hercules is more than a multidisciplinary chef and author. She is a worldly food evangelist, spreading cuisine from roads less traveled, the Wall Street Journal’s Howie Kahn says.

Thirty-one-year-old chef and author Olia Hercules studied Italian at university, graduated from Leiths, a culinary school whose teachings lean French, and worked in the kitchen of Yotam Ottolenghi from 2010 to 2011, where recipes carry an Israeli pedigree. The Ukrainian food she grew up with, however,
didn’t seem like something to pursue professionally. “Living in the shadows of the Soviet Union,” says Hercules, who is now based in London, “gave people a complex that our food wasn’t worthy.”

As military conflict crept toward her home region, in 2014, Hercules suddenly felt possessed to gather and publish the recipes of her youth. So she returned home to work with her mother and aunt on what became Mamushka, a richly layered and highly personal volume about local cookery (plump, pork belly–stuffed dumplings called manty, among other delicacies) and culture (the superiority of the local borscht) that was published last year, The Wall Street Journal informs.

With Mamushka, Hercules has become a commanding voice not only for Ukrainian cooking but also for the culinary traditions of the nearby countries, such as Georgia and Azerbaijan, that played a role in her childhood.
Recently, Hercules spent 25 days on the road retracing a family vacation, taken 29 years ago, that began in her hometown, Kakhovka, in southern Ukraine, and terminated at an aunt’s apartment in Baku over 1,000 miles away. This incarnation of the trip, however, had a far stronger emphasis on eating—and drinking.

“In Georgia,” says Hercules, “where the natural wines are so fantastic, we took marshrutki, these cheap, chauffeured vans, instead of driving ourselves.” In Tbilisi, Hercules discovered supra, the Georgian feast where friends and strangers share toasts and stories among plates of khinkali (more dumplings), khachapuri (cheese bread) and other offerings at one long table, where seemingly endless bottles of wine and chacha (the local grappa) are consumed.
This month, Hercules will bring the concept of the Georgian supra home to London. It’ll start in pop-up form in Marylebone (February 23–27) and later this year in Shoreditch, but ultimately she hopes to be able to present her point of view more permanently, in the form of a restaurant, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“If I can get Londoners to share their food,” she says, “maybe I can get them to share their feelings as well. We’ll just need the right amount of wine.”

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