Becky and Kedist Tsadik's Ethiopian supper club Bereket began as a class assignment. In her second year of business school at UCLA, Kedist, 29, drew up plans for an upscale Ethiopian restaurant and entered the campus international food festival for empirical research. Her food kiosk ended up winning the best food category at the festival.
"I saw firsthand the reaction people had to food that I was used to eating all the time. The reaction was so exciting and overwhelmingly positive. People wanted to know why they haven't had this before. The line never stopped and we sold out. Everyone was talking about Ethiopian food," says Kedist.
Witnessing the demand, she asked Becky if she would be interested in working on a concept together. With a culinary career based in Chicago, Becky was reticent over the phone. By the time she came out to Los Angeles for Kedist's graduation in 2011, she had a collection of recipes in hand as a gift.
Unbeknownst to her, Becky had added a stint at a Ethiopian restaurant to her repertoire, intent on gaining experience. A few months after Kedist finished business school, she moved out to L.A. and they started Bereket with the first supper club held at Royal/T in Culver City in the fall of 2011. These days Kedist takes care of coordinating the event while Becky focuses on composing the meal. The roles aren't too strictly bound, however, with one stepping in to help when the other needs it.
The Tsadiks keep an open mind on where the supper club will lead -- whether as a restaurant or a catering and private events company. In the meantime, the supper club has allowed the sisters to build a following as well as test out recipes and concepts.
"We have a unique opportunity to connect with every guest. When you have a restaurant, it gets crazy. You don't have a chance to interact as much," says Kedist.
A defining characteristic of their supper club is in its presentation from the space to the meal itself, which is laid out in courses as opposed to the more traditional way of having multiple dishes served on injera. Guests are welcomed with a honey mead known as tej, but they can bring their beverage of choice for what Kedist describes as a chance to craft their own experience. The supper club meets in a different location each time and the sisters partner with various local artists, gallery owners and entrepreneurs to bring the dinners together.
"It's about taking traditional dishes that we learned from family members and either elevating the presentation or adding modern cooking techniques, seasonal ingredients at the farmers market or our interpretation. It's also about preserving the integrity of the recipes," says Kedist on defining modern Ethiopian cuisine.
"Traditionally, the way we're used to eating in America begins with a starter, a salad, maybe an appetizer, then a main course and maybe dessert. We try to choose the dishes -- that wouldn't necessarily come out this way -- but fit into that idea of what it should be," says Kedist.
"Early on, we decided that we'd want to make vegetables their own separate course to showcase all the delicious vegetarian and even vegan dishes in Ethiopian food," says Becky, now 26.
The dinner always starts with a salad that is based on a traditional recipe but reflects seasonal market ingredients. This is followed up with a small bite more intense in spices and aromatic vegetables like garlic, ginger and onions.
"We keep going from there until we get into the main, which is typically a protein dish. It incorporates the most intense of Ethiopian spices. Not all Ethiopian food is spicy. It's very flavorful. The misconception is that it's all heat; it's not. It's very varied in the flavor profiles. We're trying to go with that high punch of heat and try to keep that dish as traditional as possible while modernizing the presentation," says Kedist.
"We end with a light dessert of fruit. In Ethiopian food, there's not much of a tradition of sweets. Most meals are ended with some fruit or a snack like dates," says Becky.
In Amharic, a language spoken in Ethiopia, "bereket" means a gift with spiritual undertones, suggesting the blessings that arrive from doing good unto others. The sisters named their supper club in reflection of the ways in which food can be a gift.
Those on their private mailing list receive notice about tickets to the once-a-month events, which tend to sell out in less than a day, two to three weeks in advance. Details on the exact location are kept under wraps until 24 hours before. A part of the proceeds from the dinners go towards hunger relief efforts in Ethiopia.
Turmeric-Spiced Yellow Split Peas
From: Becky and Kedist Tsadik
½ cup yellow split peas
1 cup water
2 cups yellow onions, chopped
¼ cup shallots, chopped
½ cup canola oil
¼ Tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
½ Tbsp. turmeric
1 jalapeno, seeded and julienned (for garnish)
1. Rinse the split peas in water and drain. Cook at a rolling boil for one hour, or until half of the water is absorbed (water should be level with the peas).
2. Once tender, allow the split peas to sit off heat for 15 mins. Skim off the skin.
3. In a separate non-stick pot, cook the onions and shallots for about an hour over medium heat, adding enough canola oil to just cover. Stir occasionally.
4. Add the garlic and turmeric; cook another 20 minutes.
5. Add the peas in their water to the onion; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for another 30 minutes.
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