Chef Merida cooks and hosts Vegan Secret Suppers twice a month out of her Clinton Hill loft—26 dinner guests is a full house—and everything is handmade in her kitchen, local, and organic. “You get to see all sides of it,” says Merida, who is originally from Vancouver. “They walk up the stairs and then you see them realize, ‘Oh, I’m in someone’s house.’ You see people come in and sit beside someone they don’t know. And then after 10 minutes everyone is talking and making friends and that’s so cool.”
Each meal is four courses: a recent summer menu included celeriac puree with balsamic beet reduction and chive; summer greens with seared asparagus and sesame shitakes; red rice dosa with tomato masala jam and apple tamarind chutney; and lemon pineapple pie for dessert. “I usually start by seeing what’s at the market, what’s in season, and I go from there,” she says.
Merida is also an artist, with her own fashion line once upon a time—until she broke both arms, one right after the other (we know, crazy). Luckily, she still parlays her artistic talents into handmade stoneware, which she sells at local pop-ups and flea markets, and is also publishing a vegan cookbook with Arsenal Pulp Press, that we might recreate her Secret Supper in our own homes. “I’m always thinking of things I can do that aren’t real jobs,” she says. “Proprietorship to proprietorship. I don’t really know how to work for anybody else.”