Hannah Blacklock finds a pop-up with a moral purpose.
Pop-ups are not just about making a quick buck, marketing your brand or upping your street-cred.
Mazí Mas is an inspirational South-East London pop-up that offers refugee and migrant women a platform to get out there and get their voices heard.
Currently based at the Oval House Theatre in SE11, the social enterprise provides ‘opportunities for women who aspire to careers in the food industry to gain paid work experience, develop their skills, tell their stories, and connect with the wider public.’ Each chef employed through the pop-up receives a minimum of 16 hours of work per week – invaluable experience, in an otherwise unpredictable and unstable job market.
The women of Mazí Mas are sourcing and producing food that is delicious, vibrant, and ‘rooted in rich cultural traditions’. And they are revolutionizing the pop-up scene in the process.
All of the food produced and served by these inspiring women is locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable – ‘not because it’s fashionable, but because it’s how our mothers taught us to cook’. (A refreshing rarity in the seemingly trend conscious world of London pop-ups.)
Originally founded by Nikandre Kopcke in 2012, Mazí Mas (which translates from the Greek as ‘with us’) pays homage to Nikandre’s Greek godmother, Maria, who always dreamed of owning her own bakery. Since Maria never managed to fulfil this dream, Nikandre was inspired to ‘help other women do what [Maria] was unable to.’
Nikandre says ‘Mazí Mas is about bringing people together through food. We create employment opportunities for talented female chefs through our pop-up restaurants and catering and in that way we create a community through food.’
The menu changes daily, but is always filled with enchanting, authentic, ‘home cooked’ dishes from all over the world. The blend of different cultures and backgrounds of the chefs – from South America, Europe, Africa and Asia – means that every day there is a fresh idea or unique twist on a classic recipe. The women work together to create flavoursome, exciting food to entice in the crowds.
And it is definitely working.
Mazí Mas already has a sister organisation in Sydney, Australia, which supports and offers work to asylum seekers. If the success of these two ventures is anything to go by, Mazí Mas is only going to get bigger. As word of this pop-up spreads, so to will the support for this cause and Nikandre will be one step closer to her vision, of ‘a world in which women are full, equal, and independent participants in public life – their care work valued, their voices heard, and their skill rewarded.’