Julia: How did you begin working in food?
Eden: Everything happened organically. It started when my friend and artist Math Bass and I made an underground breakfast club at my old house in Echo Park. We served 40 people a weekend. We stopped doing that, and then I got a job at Elf Café, cooking.
Julia: Did you have experience working in restaurants before that job?
Eden: No, I was just good friends with the owner, Scott. We talked about food all the time. I told him I wouldn’t leave until he gave me a job, and I became the sous chef, garde manger.
Julia: Tell me about the transition from the artist to chef? You managed to step away from the studio, but remain part of the art community, by serving your friends and colleagues your cookery.
Eden: I made art before I cooked, but people kept hiring me to do food-related projects — artists would ask me to cater video shoots, or Night Gallery asked me to cater their Seder, but I never thought of it as a business until recently. Making and serving food is the most humble thing you can do. What I do now is basic, it’s about nourishment. There isn’t enough room in the world for everyone to be a professional artist, but we all have to eat.
Julia: What were some of your favorite art projects?
Eden: I photographed a group of people who practice Laughter Yoga —
J: I went to a Laughing Yoga class once! I love laughing so much, it is basically the only reason I have ever done drugs.
Eden: Yeah? I have always been interested in sub-cultures, so I just started going to the Laughter Yoga clubs. There is an underlying sadness, some deep, heavy shit, below the surface there. I felt connected to these people though. I made a music video for the band Thank You Rosekind from the footage I shot at one of the Laughter Yoga clubs.
Julia: And what about the series of photos you did, Eating Alone?
Eden: Moll Katzen, of Moosewood cookbooks, always said, “you should always make a nice meal for yourself. Whether you are cooking for yourself or a party of ten.” Cooking and taking photos was always something I could do by myself. So, for that series, I cooked myself beautiful meals and took self-portraits.
Julia: And Eden’s Herbals, how did that start?
Eden: The Saps [Eden’s herbal infusion syrups] are a blend of the culinary and the herbal, and the “Smoke” is mostly calming herbs that you can roll into a cigarette, but you could also burn it as incense.Growing up, my mother, a midwife, had friends who were really into herbs and healing plants. That sparked my interest in Nancy Clem, an amazing herbalist. Nancy teaches at UCLA in the art department…she kind of defies definition. I have been shooting a documentary about her, and over time, I have learned more about plants.
Julia: What’s next for you?
Eden: I love to go into people’s homes and make food from what they have lying around in the cupboard. My family are Hungarian immigrants, who are constantly worried that there might not be enough to eat. I am obsessed with avoiding waste. Like my Hungarian grandmother, I enjoy the process of folding things back in. For example, our salad today will be turned into a wrap tomorrow.
I love what Anthony Bourdain is doing, but it makes me realize that there is room in the food world for more women. I want to make an international web series called Cooking with Grandmas, avoiding waste and ensuring second helpings in resourceful Grandmothers’ kitchens worldwide.