Thanks to the miracle of modern technology admiring someone from afar is as easy as picking up your phone (which means “afar” just got real close).
We all have had the experience of feeling like we know a person who we’ve never even met before because, thanks to a certain app, you get to go on holiday with them, cook with them, and experience their life through their lens. Yes people, I am talking about Instagram friends. You have them, I have them—because, let’s be honest—we all indulge in this fantastical voyeuristic world that is nothing short of addicting. I recently developed an Insta friendship of my own with fellow foodie swooner Laila Gohar of Sunday Supper. Though we were complete strangers, I instinctively knew we would one day be actual friends and cook together. My hunch became a reality when we met at Art Basel.
As Laila tells it,“Athena and I were following each other on Instagram and I was always curious about the person behind those beautiful pictures.” Fast-forward a few months to Art Basel this year when our very dear mutual friend Anastasia of Mandolin Miami introduced us at a lunch.
“We immediately knew each other by our Instagram handles, which was hilarious. It’s funny when you meet someone that you follow on Instagram and you know all this stuff about them, like what their kid looks like for example, but you never really meet them! It’s funny and a little scary but it’s the world we live in today. We definitely had an Insta-crush on each other!”
As Laila so eloquently put it, we crushed hard and then we met for lunch and we swooned—we were like two peas in a foodie pod as we each shared our own personal culinary journeys.
Laila’s interest in cooking stemmed from a deep love of food that was nurtured at a young age by her family. “My love for food and cooking stems from the meals I had with my family growing up in Cairo. Almost every night, we would commune as a family around the dinner table. No one in my family is a chef but everybody loved to improvise and come up with different recipes. My dad would always say that in order to be healthy you have to eat five colors a day (and white doesn’t count) so the food was always very colorful.”
It’s fitting then that her catering company, Sunday Supper NY stands smack dab at the intersection of food and art. Early on in her career Laila threw dinner parties for friends, which evolved into her design-centric catering company. “Since I moved to New York years ago (and before that in other cities), I’d throw what would start off as small dinners for a few friends and these small dinners would evolve into big parties. Often times there weren’t enough utensils or seats, but that never really got in the way. As long as there’s food and wine, everyone’s happy.”
After a lot of encouragement from friends she decided to launch Sunday Supper. “It was a very natural progression. The idea was to throw the same kind of parties I was hosting for my friends, and cook the same style of food on a professional level.”
Now here’s where the art comes in: Sunday Supper caters events with museums, galleries, and artists to celebrate collaborations or art openings. Part of what makes Laila such a genius is how she’s managed to tap into this very specific niche market with her business, affording her the swoony opportunity to work with the artists to translate their visions into food. It’s a conceptual dream come true.
After meeting Laila and I began to brainstorm how we could express our shared love of art and all things beautiful and aesthetically pleasing while also celebrating the local and seasonal food we both love to use in our culinary creations. We decided to build off of Laila’s father’s rainbow rule of thumb and conceptualized a shoot that would encompass all the colors of the food spectrum. With beauty, color, and texture as our focus, we perused the market together on a snowy wintery afternoon collecting fruits and veggies according to both hue and season. Our afternoon of cooking revealed even more commonalities: turns out both our menus are often informed by a weakness for aesthetically pleasing ingredients—naturally we gave priority to beautifying and stylizing our food and then we cooked, we swooned, we laughed, we ate. And there you have it – Insta foodie friends for real now!