I’m ushered through a gray gate by a lady, dressed in black, into a lovely villa and directed to wash my hands before heading into the kitchen. Aroma of Thai food surrounds me, and I’m greeted by a bevy of young women, laughing, talking and clearly having a good time cooking together. On my way, I pass a tastefully set dining table, complete with dishware, cutlery, flowers and a center piece with room to seat up to sixteen people. I believe I’ve found the namesake of my hostess’s culinary venture: The LongTable.
Set in a private villa, the LongTable is a communal affair. Unlike typical cooking classes, LongTable is an interactive cooking class, where attendees participate in the cooking process, and then enjoy a splendid lunch together on a long dining table—which although indoors, could easily have been a picnic in a park, under a large tree.
The duo behind the concept, Filiz Turec and Meltem Salmeen, both natives of Turkey, have a penchant for cooking and all things food. “I used to teach cooking back in Izmir…and dreamed of a long table,” Filiz says, when asked how they came upon the name for their project. Meltem adds: “We thought LongTable was elegant for what we had in mind.” Incidentally, once the name was picked, they realized, Meltem, whose private home is their present venue, indeed had a long dining table.
Having met at a social party in Kuwait, the ladies hit it off instantly. One day they were decorating Meltem’s dining room, when the seed of an idea began to take shape. However, they are quick to admit ‘they had no real plans’. Soon, one good thing led to another, and in October 2017, they held their first class. Today, they conduct 3 classes every week, often a sell-out. Even so, the duo insists they don’t view LongTable as a business, but rather a cultural experience. “We don’t put too much pressure on ourselves… it’s meant to be a fun and enjoyable project for all of us,” Meltem explains.
The ladies were surprised by the requests they received after their first event was published online. “We got so many calls…and people started giving us ideas for our next class. You couldn’t ask for anything better!” Meltem laughs.
At LongTable, the focus is not on how to cook one dish, but instead, each class aims to teach you techniques involved in preparing a variety of specialty dishes from different countries. To achieve this, home-chefs, as well as professional, from different countries are invited to conduct classes, which I think is a brilliant touch of authenticity.
The founders realized that here in Kuwait, one could find nearly every nationality in the world. “So, why should we teach a foreign cuisine, if say, I can get a Japanese person to teach sushi, or an Italian to teach risotto, or someone from Thailand to cook pad Thai,” Filiz says, matter-of-factly.
The duo’s selection is based on a personal review. “We firstly sample their cooking, and only when we are satisfied with the quality and standard, we welcome them to the LongTable family,” Filiz explains, while Meltem nods in agreement and adds something about “how it’s definitely a growing family now”.
Like Kuwait, the LongTable is literally a ‘melting pot’ with people from different nationalities and cultures, both men and women, learning, cooking, laughing and enjoying a hearty meal together. As Filiz puts it; “Everyone puts their collective energy in one pot.” For Meltem, it’s universal. “You sit at a communal table…there is no politics, no religion…the whole idea is very Turkish…where everyone is served from one pot. We share everything,” she explains.
Meltem, who hails from an artistic family and is a graphic designer, is behind each impeccably decorated dining table. “It comes from my mom,” she reminisces, drawing my attention to the paintings on the walls made by her talented mother, “She used to create centerpieces on the table, always using food.”
All of this, has made the LongTable a hit among attendees. The duo has already been approached by a local channel to create a Ramadan series, but nothing is finalized yet. In the future, Filiz and Meltem would like to team up with local farms, and sponsors, so that they can extend the experience to a larger group.
They are also keen on collaborations and holding al fresco classes, provided (besides an equipped kitchen) “it has to be a warm and inviting environment.”
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Their next ‘dream’ is to have a place for the LongTable, so they can hold more classes. The ladies are also contemplating a spin-off of the LongTable called The LongTalk, which is going to be a non-cooking get together for people to demonstrate their talents and expertise.
Just as I was wrapping up and thanking the two ladies for their hospitality, they surprised me with a question of their own: “What got you interested in the Longtable?”
It took me a nanosecond before replying, “Curiosity. I loved the name!”
For more information or to join their next class, follow them on Instagram @thelongtablekw.
Photography by: Caroline Ericson