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The World Of Chaos Cooking


Every month, several dozen strangers gather in a New York City apartment for an event called Chaos Cooking. Now, let me be clear. We're talking about upwards of 40 people in one apartment, one New York apartment. And almost all of them cook a dish to share.

Here's the real catch to Chaos Cooking and it's a big one: It's all done with a single stove.

Jon Kalish dropped by and brought back this report.

JON KALISH: Chaos Cooking takes place in an apartment in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, an inner city neighborhood that has become a magnet for young hipsters in recent years.

The modest kitchen is so crowded in Zooey(ph), I can't get very close to the stove. I wasn't the only one struggling to get near those burners. Ryan Ang(ph) made something he learned to cook during a visit to Thailand.

Mr. RYAN ANG: I made pad Thai. There's a lot of preparation. When you cook it, it takes about 15 minutes, not even. Preparation takes about a half hour.

KALISH: Was it tough to get some time on the burner in the kitchen?

Mr. ANG: Very. It is very difficult to get time on the burner. But, you know, I was waiting the entire time and you just got to shove yourself in there. It's like sports.

KALISH: Some veterans of these Chaos Cooking events have decided that it's just easier to make something that doesn't need heat to complete. The big beefy guy making minted honeydew soup in a blender is a diamond salesman named Mike Freed(ph).

Mr. MIKE FREED (Diamond Salesman): There's a lot of pressure. You have to figure out in terms of time. I mean, when you're cooking in your own apartment, you just want to make a soup, you make a soup. But I wanted to make a soup and, hey, I'm probably not going to be able to get a burner for an hour so I should make cold soup, and that's where you come up with ideas. So it causes you to be more creative.

KALISH: Freed served his cold honeydew soup in plastic cocktail cups, prompting one woman to suggest he had some rum.

The apartment where Chaos Cooking takes place is occupied by a guy known as Joe Che.

Mr. JOE CHE (Host, Chaos Cooking; Events Producer): A lot of us in New York are estrayed from our families. We don't have them close. We don't get those holidays all the time like we used to. Everyone's clamoring in the kitchen and you're sweating and there's 30 things in the oven and burners and people are bouncing off each other and it kind of reminds you of home.

KALISH: Che's living room has several tables set up for food prep. At one, David Leventhal(ph) is making Indonesian beef satay.

Mr. DAVID LEVENTHAL: We're very interested in a concept called participatory culture where everyone is involved. No one's a spectator.

KALISH: That's an idea that most of these 20- and 30-somethings are down with. Furniture designer Jesse Mann(ph) was cutting up jicama and papaya for a salad.

Mr. JESSE MANN (Furniture Designer): Cooking with people builds community in a way that nothing else can. I think what you're seeing here is community forming before your eyes.

Unidentified Woman: We're making the drinks now.

KALISH: As with any community, this one has all sorts. A fellow who was researching the slow food movement stood making a spinach and strawberry salad for two hours. When he mentioned that he had a secret sauce and that he used to be one of those dumpster-diving freegans, I declined to sample.

For NPR News, I'm Jon Kalish in New York.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jon Kalish