I am from Odessa! Hello!

I am an Odessa citizen in the third generation. Having made a career in a corporate world, I once said goodbye to everything and took the leap to do what I loved. I changed my business suit into kitchen apron, Excel spreadsheets into spelling dictionary, meetings into solitude of a writer, business trips into interesting journeys, corporate struggle into creative torment. From business trips I bring cookbooks instead of contracts with clients. I choose the working time myself and as a result I work around the clock 🙂

It all started with the cooking school “My Friends”, which I opened with my friends in Odessa many years ago. When the day job was finished, another job began during the weekends. But there is never too much work, right? 🙂 And time came when the second defeated the first. My many years of experience working with the best world manufacturers of cookware, tableware, and accessories made me seriously think: why do people buy all these things, and what do they do with them later. So, food came into my life. I started working really young, so I did not learn how to cook. Gastronomic knowledge was as much new to me as it was to the students of our school. Inviting Ukraine’s best chefs for school lessons, we received answers to our questions, and at the same time learned new things about other countries, their gastronomic traditions, history, and wines. In our school, many found new friends, learned how to create a real celebration and to look for happiness in small things, and, of course, they fell in love with cooking. Time passed, and I came up with a project for a new school with Miele as a partner in the heart of Odessa. But life took an unexpected turn, and I ended up in the UK to tell the whole world about our region and its gastronomic culture.

Now I live in London. I work on a book about Odessa cuisine, write for gastronomic and travel publications, organize culinary master classes and pop-up dinners in London restaurants. In 2019, I became a partner of the EU Protection of Geographical Indication project in Ukraine. Together we had to build the first Ukrainian “Road of Wine and Taste”. We travelled a lot in our region, and a piece of my heart remained in the Danube Bessarabia. In order to share my love to this land with you, I created an exclusive eno-gastronomic tour around the region.

Moving to a new country, you are as if born again. London is a huge metropolis for a girl from a small and cosy Odessa. Complex city, where so many people live, that all the best and most valuable is well concealed. And the way one discovers London’s secrets will most likely look like a fragment from Lewis Carroll’s book “Alice in Wonderland”. Remember when Alice chases after a white rabbit, goes down the rabbit hole and tries to get through such a tiny door, that even her head cannot get through, into a wonderful garden? I learned English in grocery stores and collecting cookbooks. I fell in love with this city through its food markets, cafes, and restaurants. London is known worldwide as the gastronomic mecca of the world. But you will be surprised that when you come here you can get both strongly positive and strongly negative gastronomic experience. Cafes, restaurants, and bars in this city are constantly opening and closing, and there are so many of them that it is difficult to keep abreast. If you would like to have the best impressions from visiting gastronomic London, I recommend you thoroughly prepare or get on my tour of the most delicious places in the city. Actually I can tell you so much about delicious places as in Great Britain as in Ukraine, and about culinary revolution in the world during last years.

And you know what I’ll tell you? My heart forever belongs to Odessa, but in London I have an important mission – to promote Ukrainian and Odessa cuisine!

Connect with Maria: mkalenska@myodessacuisine.com

As featured in:

Hillingdon women's centre