Interview by Nicholas Snyders

The Cooking Kitchen is a somewhat enigmatic mix of podcast, cooking reality show and event host among many other things. After two years of making noise in the Mother City and beyond we caught up with them.

Marlè, Nella and Desmond

Before we get down to brass tax would you mind telling us a bit about the individuals who make up The Cooking Kitchen?

Des is the podcast host and responsible for all our sound design/mixing. When you hear us on the podcast saying “oh we’ll fix it in post” its a big inside joke because what we mean is Des will fix it.

All our video content is shot and edited by Marle. She also manages our social media pages and is probably the one who slid into your DM’s or heart-reacted to your selfie. She doesn’t ever talk on the podcast but she’s always there – watching, lurking, listening. She has also saved quite a few meals with her baking knowledge.

Finally Nella is the producer, guest contacter, co-host, and handler of sponsors. She can fill any gap in service of inspiring and motivating her friends

Our Ninja Turtle characters are – Leonello, Desatello, and Marleangelo

Music and food are two deeply human yet seemingly unrelated aspects of culture. What led you to bring these two ideas together?
Nella: It was all by chance. Desmond and I were hanging out in the kitchen on a friend’s get-away. He was making steak (before we became vegan) and I was pretending to interview him as if we were on a cooking show. We kept getting derailed and talking about music. For almost a year we would laugh about that moment but it wasn’t until a bunch of friends started getting invested in the idea, that we actually pushed ourselves to make a pilot. When we saw the way cooking and eating together made our guests feel, we realised there was no turning back. Both music and food are ways in which the three of us connect. I guess you could say it’s our love languages. So, there was no strategic idea of bringing together these two aspects, we just did it because it came naturally, it’s what we enjoy, and we kinda just hoped others would too. 

Of course it’s not just about music or food, you have also featured filmmakers and music industry professionals and have collaborated with many different people in diverse fields. Do you see the podcast as providing a more holistic view of the creative scene in SA?
Nella: When you put it like that it sounds very fancy (laughing face emoji). From the beginning it’s been about everyone who contributes to the music scene in this country. We generally do try to keep our focus on music but have found all of SA’s creative industries to be deeply intertwined (Bands rely on venues, sound engineers, poster designers and PR. Films need to be scored. Festivals need photographers. You get where I’m going?). It’s been empowering to bridge the divides of these scenes, and I have learned that we are a lot more similar than we think and all need each other to grow. I feel like we have become more than just a podcast but rather a platform that celebrates the creatives throughout music, rather than just those who make it. 

I have learned that we are a lot more similar than we think and all need each other to grow.

The Cooking Kitchen started over two years ago and in that time you have produced five seasons of podcasts and hosted numerous events. What are some of the personal highlights or milestones that have marked this period?
Desmond: With regards to our podcast, I would have to say my favourite podcast guests were Andreas and Martinique from the Make-Overs (they have been local heroes of mine since a wee lad). They brought so much insight surrounding differences between how it works here in SA and taking your music to an international crowd. Also having chats with single guests like Robin Brink (Beatenberg and more), and Amy Ayanda (Amy Ayanda and more) were really eye opening to see how much a single person can put on their plate and still succeed with their goals. I probably say this for all of us but one of the first events TCK threw, “Millennial Jukebox”, was one of the wildest parties I’ve been to, let alone help put together. We managed to get together an incredible line up that involved Nikola Vlok, Hyroine, Lo-Ghost, Sensitive Black Dyke, Nodiggity and Holy Funk. The venue EVOL (our home) was packed with people we’d never seen or met before, getting all sweaty and groovy on the dancefloor and having a great time. Also having the opportunity to meet and interview bands from the last two Endless Daze festivals such as Danny of Night Beats, Calvin Love and Candice Gordon were definite highlights.         

Similarly what has been some of the most memorable food prepared by your guests?
Desmond: Wow! I didn’t realise until now how much food we’ve managed to get people to make over the seasons! One of our most recent TCK Cribs episodes, we were blessed to travel up to Knysna to stay at Peace of Eden which is a Vegan Nature Lodge and Forest Retreat. Our hostess Jessamine took us mushroom foraging for Gando mushrooms which is this very hard mushroom that was finely grated and added to hot water to form a hearty mushroom stock. The stock was then added to the breakfast fry up which consisted of fried onions, baby tomatoes, and tofu cubes. Once all these lovely ingredients were married, they were spooned into these phyllo pastry “cups” in a muffin tray and finished off in the oven. They were so light, crispy and hearty. Definitely my favourite food experience on this show and probably my life.      

Nella: That mushroom dish was epic, such a wholesome getaway. A moment I will never forget was spoon feeding baby food to Ian Jepson, an illustrator/artist/poster designer that I deeply respect and admire. Or being able to witness live and in real time, Bernard Fourie from Evol, stepping foot into a kitchen for the first time ever. It was magical and he made us a delicious sandwich.

Marlè: oh my gosh there are so many! Every episode is memorable in it’s own way, but one of my favourites would definitely be the time we made some special cookies with Weed Dealer (catching my drift? 😉 ) They are so much fun to be around and we all got to take some cookies home, doggy bags are always the best. 

Aside from producing podcasts with some of SA’s most talented people in the music industry you also host wildly diverse events within Cape Town’s music scene. From showcasing garage and indie bands to blending jazz with stand up comedy and much more, it seems as if you aren’t satisfied with sitting still. What is the process that goes into deciding what to do next?
Marlè: Well correct me if I’m wrong *looks at Nella and Desmond* but there isn’t really a process that goes into deciding what to do next. When we feel like it’s time to party, we simply put together an event that we would like to go to and that we would enjoy. Some of our other formats like TCK Cribs (where we cook a meal and have a full interview with our guests all on camera) and TCK Live (where we showcase a single musician/band with an intimate event and film and release one of the songs they are performing live) came to be purely by wanting to try something new and seeing a gap for it in the scene. We really just keep our ears on the ground and go with the flow to keep it fresh and happening.

Nella: When we started the podcast, audio was all we knew how to do and had access to. We developed TCK Cribs and TCK Live when Marlè joined, because with her video and photography skills a whole new world opened up for us. Although we “specialize” in food and talking about music, we are ultimately just trying to start a conversation. And it’s important for us to be able to communicate through different mediums whether it be, literal conversation, film, photography, or getting drunk with your friends and listening to live music.

Marlè: We also feel really strongly about showcasing all the different creatives in the industry; whether it be musicians, artists, photographers, venue owners or sound designers. Everyone plays a very vital part in the industry and they deserve to be seen and appreciated. We love making the voices heard that are usually lurking in the background and that will always play a part in planning what to do next. 

Nella: You’re my favourite lurker who deserves to be appreciated. 

Marlè: ❤

Currently we find ourselves in very uncertain times with the global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus affecting every facet of life. This undoubtedly is and will have a huge impact on the music industry, with discussions about supporting independent and underground artists featuring prominently. We have seen platforms such as Bandcamp reducing their fees to support artists as well as huge increase in live-streamed parties, with some even asking for entrance. What do you think of the response to the challenges of this virus in the context of the music industry and do you think it will shape your endeavours going forward?
Desmond: It has been a strange and sudden turn of events for the industry and it didn’t really sink in until the lockdown was initiated. There’s been the heart wrenching news of Mercury (Cape Town’s most iconic music venue) having to close its doors after 20 years of live music and keeping the industry growing. I think no one was fully prepared for all of this but just seeing how artists and management teams have responded so positively with such great solutions for the time being. Just before the lockdown  we were able to chat with Sophie Joans over Instagram Live about her platform “Scenes on Screens”. She hosts a number of shows (live streams) everyday on Instagram with guests of many talents, not just musicians (there was a magician one night!!!). Many artists/bands/creatives have used social media as their main tool for keeping their content and exposure alive during these times. I feel most for the full time creatives in the entertainment industry because they’ve been hit the hardest, as for part timers, this is predominantly a shift in process. Some creatives do their thang not for the money, but just for the fact of “doing it” or being able to share and express a side of themselves with others. But many creatives and people involved in entertainment rely on the income to keep themselves and their projects alive. I am glad artists and creatives are still able to bring in funds based on donations by performing live on streams such as Aloe Aloe (a booking and promotions agency) who created a platform where the audience can contribute to the performing artist via QR codes. Moving forward it is uncertain how long things will be like this and what more changes to the infrastructure might happen but only good can come from all this. I feel that artists and their audiences have grown closer during these uncertain times. When all this blows over I hope to see these online streaming platforms still being used in creative ways to expose new talent and connect people in and out of the industry together. I am in no means an expert in economics but I have a feeling things will bounce back and possibly surpass where we all were before.  

Nella: We will have to wait and see what’s going to happen but the podcast will of course still continue, we will be releasing our first episode of Season 5.5 in mid April and conducting our interviews through Zoom. They will still be available to play off all the usual platforms (Spotify, Apple Podcast, Buzzsprout etc.) So that we don’t lose the interactive video aspect of our podcast, we will also be introducing The Sunday Roast (you heard it here first) where artists from all over the world can join us for live roasts, the topics remain very much up to our followers, however we will try keep it music related. We see this as an opportunity to be even more creative and we are determined to support our beloved music scene even if it means we are forced to download TikTok. 

Marlè: I refuse to download TikTok.