2 minutes with Ella Mittas
...words by Ali Webb
The Greek side of my family all really love food. I’ve been surrounded by it since I was a child. Everyone in my family cooks a lot; we have dinner together once a week with my grandparents, cousins and parents.
I studied Creative Writing and finished my degree doing journalistic work for a range of magazines but I wasn’t writing about anything that I really cared about. I was bored and I have way too much energy to be bored, so my dad suggested I do a cooking course to burn some energy.
That’s when I became obsessed with cooking. I’m a very obsessive person and I am known to put all of my energy into the one thing. When I started cooking, I was consumed by it.
Family and the feeling of generosity is the baseline to my cooking. It creates an atmosphere. My family love watching me cook, helping to create this warm and inviting environment.
My dad was the main cook in my family. In a Greek family it is traditional for the men to do all the barbeque meats and the women to do all the salads and vegetables. But my dad, he has always done all the cooking and he loves it. He really researches his food. Since I was little we have been going to the market every Saturday, looking out for exciting ingredients.
It’s harder to be a chef when you are female. A kitchen is a space I’ve never really felt comfortable in, which is why I work for myself now. It’s a very competitive industry and it can be hard to get a compliment on your cooking. I’m a very sensitive person and I believe that aggression and cooking beautiful food just doesn’t match. Cooking comes from the soul and the best part about it is you get to be really creative.
I have just finished a month-long pop up at Gertrude Street Enoteca, where my cooking career actually started. I worked alongside the renowned Tansy Good and it was all women in the kitchen. We changed dishes everyday which made the work fun and physical and also challenging.
My style is a mixture of old and new school. I cook a lot of traditional Greek food, but it’s not based on technique. All of my food is really easy to cook. I haven’t had a great deal of training, just small stints in kitchens where I have worked a year with someone and then six months with someone else. Not the traditional four years under the same roof as a lot of chefs do.
I was in Istanbul for twelve months and then Israel for six weeks, working in kitchens. I’m very persistent and if there’s a place where I want to work, I simply contact them and if I don’t hear back, I contact them again. I asked Annie Smithers for a job for two years until she finally gave me one! If you are passionate enough and try hard enough, people will have you come and work for them. Kitchens have such a high turnover, there’s always work.
I learnt so much in Istanbul, it was hard but so worth it. In Israel I worked with the owner of Miznon in Telaviv. It was incredibly inspiring. I really admire the work of Annie Smithers, Yotam Ottolenghi – whom I worked with for a short period - and Olia Hercules, who is a food writer and chef. She studied international relations before becoming a chef and her recipes are so well researched that I admire the way she does her whole job. She cooks but she cares so much about it.
If I were to cook one dish for my closest friends it would be Fava – yellow split peas with onions, carrots, capers and pickled onions. It’s something I always have on the menu – it’s so simple and tasty! It’s total comfort food.
What’s Next? I’m going to focus on events and collaborations. I’d like to collaborate with an artist or work with foraging. I want to do a few research projects and put on events. I love information and finding out as much as possible about something, anything. I won’t be sitting still, that’s for sure!
You can find out about Ella’s next project on Instagram @ellamittas @ela_melbourne
Our interviewer Ali Webb is a publicist, copywriter, content creator and excellent human, you can find her @houseofwebb