Chef, Food Writer and Restaurateur
Karen Dudley is the owner of The Kitchen in Woodstock, a chef and curator of flavour, she has been winning hearts for years, growing an amazing following who migrate to her popular eatery for her – as much as in celebration of their shared love of food.
The Kitchen is a bustling eatery and catering company in Cape Town. Famous for its impressive array of delicious salads, Love Sandwiches and perfect treats, it draws a loyal community of locals and visitors from all over the world. This is also where Michelle Obama opted to take lunch on her visit to the city.
Gathered in her home kitchen, we speak about how it all began. ‘A few years ago, I was running my catering company from my home in Woodstock. It was getting busy and I was catering for clients from across the city, we had a noisy 6 door refrigerator taking all the space in the back, and it was dominating our home life – I knew I needed a new place to move to. ‘We found a small burnt up old fish shop in Woodstock and I thought – perfect! We’ll clean it up and turn it into a new base for our catering and put a few salads in a fridge in the window in case anybody that comes by is hungry…’
‘My curiosity and love for food is actually all about my love for people. It’s been a wonderful thing, to be welcomed into people’s lives. To be able to feed and nurture people and grow a close-knit community around The Kitchen.’
And come by they did, having tasted the amazing food for which The Kitchen is known, the crowds grew and the space expanded. Karen realised that she could connect powerfully with people through food. ‘I could inspire with a honey mustard sausage, console with a lemon square and bring comfort with a really good bowl of rice. I realised that this was my way of connecting with people and it gave purpose to everything that I was doing.’
Karen loves to absorb information about food, the world and her city and then use them to make something beautiful to feed to others. ‘As with my background and the mix of things that plays into that, I have realised that I don’t have to be any single one thing. I am a combination; the living rainbow nation is in me and I have a lot of fun with that.’
‘I don’t have to do only Thai or French or Italian or Babotie, I can see how all these flavours play together and for me the interesting thing is pulling out the distinct textures and flavours, especially with vegetables – and letting them play together.’
Karen is now stepping into a place where it has come full circle. Growing up the family always had visitors from abroad, politicians, famous, marginalised, missionaries coming to sit at the family’s table. It helped her realise that there were people in the world besides her that had different ideas and thoughts and interests.
‘At the table is where everything happens. Where we teach our children manners, where we learn to have discussions and conversations, disagreements without upset, and where we learn about where we belong. We can talk, share and learn about each other. I believe in the power of conversations that can only happen around a table and over a shared meal.’
‘I have lived in many places around the world, but Cape Town is home. There is something about the vista here. You’re either looking towards the sea or up at the mountain that encircles you. It is a privilege to live here and what excites me is that there is always something going on in Cape Town. Conversation is alive here, there’s the constant possibility of change and of us being part of it. Other parts of the world are not open in the same way. I love being part of growing something amazing and new and exciting.’
‘I want to open my home to these kinds of conversations. My home is lovely, and I would love to have people come and join me for dinner and share a little of my life and my city.’
The world is changing and in Cape Town, we are right at the forefront of that change.