WHEN JULIA KHAN ANSELMO WAS LAID OFF FROM HER JOB, SHE — USED THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE THE LIFE SHE HAD ALWAYS DREAMED OF. ENTER FEISTY FEAST, HER CULINARY GATHERING DEDICATED TO UNITING AND EMPOWERING WOMEN. THROUGH FEISTY FEAST, JULIA BRINGS WOMEN TOGETHER OVER MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION, A BEAUTIFULLY STYLED ATMOSPHERE, DELICIOUS CUISINE AND INSPIRING SPEAKERS. HERE, I CHAT TO HER ABOUT HER HOME TOWN VANCOUVER, HER PASSION FOR FOOD, NATURE AND CELEBRATING THE FEMININE, AND HOW SHE CAME TO BE LIVING HER DREAM.
Hello Julia! First up, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to start Feisty Feast?
I was born and raised in the prairies in Calgary, Alberta. My mother is from Trinidad and my father is from Portugal and they always did their best to expose me and my sister to a wide range of world cuisines. My father was very passionate about food, especially Portuguese food and he loved to entertain, so we often had large dinner parties at our house. My mother left Trinidad when she was very young to avoid an arranged marriage. She was the youngest of six and fiercely rebellious, strong minded and independent. She started her own nanny business and was the breadwinner in the family. It’s through my parents that I’ve developed a passion for food and embracing womanhood.
I began Feisty Feast in 2013 after I was laid off my ‘dream job’ working in an international art consultancy. I began questioning myself and looking at my life and asking myself what it was that I felt I was naturally good at. It came down to cooking and experimenting with international cuisines and hosting dinner parties, connecting with new people and satisfying my curious nature by learning from other people’s stories. And so, Feisty Feast was born.
You post stunning photos of the natural environment in Vancouver – a place that I imagine is all about remote, rugged beauty and abundant wildlife. Can you talk to me a little bit about your relationship to nature in your home town?
Vancouver is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in Canada and I’m very blessed to live here. I grew up in the Prairies where it’s very cold and dry and essentially we only have two seasons, winter and summer. Alberta has big blue clear skies with lots of sun, it’s expansive and open. Calgary is spread-out and you need a car to commute anywhere, so I spent a lot of time driving and being indoors.
When I moved to Vancouver five years ago my connection to nature became much more accessible. Vancouver is so green, alive and lush surrounded by moss, vines and flowers. I developed a strong connection with the Pacific Northwest coast. Swimming in the ocean has become a big passion of mine, all year round. The city is dense and easy to walk or transit by biking or bus. We’re surrounded by mountains and the ocean and there’s a feeling that nature is taking over the city. It’s only a 20-minute drive to get out of the city to the surrounding mountains, where I love to forage mushrooms in the autumn. I feel very much connected to the vibration of the earth and to the natural gifts that we are so fortunate to have access to in this part of the world.
Where are some of your hidden secret spots to spend a day in nature in or around Vancouver?
Fortunately my very good friends Sophena and Krystyn have a special place on Bowen Island called Moonshine Kingdom. It’s a 15-minute ferry ride from Vancouver and can be accessed by boat or hike in by foot. There’s a glass yurt built in the 1970s, a saltwater fire burning hot tub and an outdoor kitchen. It’s a work in progress and that’s what I love most being there – there’s always something out of the ordinary to do, whether it be organizing firewood, fetching water, foraging mussels or snorkelling.
How would your perfect day in Vancouver roll?
It would be June and I’d wake up to the sunrise. I have a morning ritual of tea and meditation where I’ll spend 30 minutes alone in tranquility. Then I would go for a run along the sea wall to third beach and have a refreshing swim in the chilled water. Brunch with friends at home or grab a coffee and croissant on Granville Island and meet my friends at the boat yard for an afternoon excursion on the water and conclude with a big family style feast. Cooking and hosting with friends are is of my favorite ways to connect, so we would cook a beautiful dinner followed by a walk in Stanley Park overlooking the sunset.
What are your top recommendations for weekends away around British Columbia?
Tofino is one of the most beautiful examples of rugged Pacific Northwest beauty and perfect for a weekend away. Wild and untouched nature, Tofino is known for the ancient rainforests and year-round surfing beaches. It’s tough to beat.
During the summer months, Desolation Sound is a popular spot to spend a few days on sandy beaches, quiet lakes and moist forests. There’s an amazing little place called Magical Dome that’s a sweet little spot with a sauna and a cozy spherical shaped cottage.
I’ve read that Vancouver is the home of the 100-Mile Diet, where locally sourced food is eaten as a rebellion against unsustainable transport practices, and is a place that takes ethical eating very seriously. Is this something that helped inspire Feisty Feast?
Vancouverites are very passionate about locally sourced and sustainable food practice. Due to the comparatively warmer climate than the rest of Canada, we have a number of farmer’s markets that operate all year round. I love to explore and support local, especially when I need to source fish and meat. I’m also inspired by the creative artisans producing natural beauty products in the city. Amongst my favourites are locally owned, operated and produced Woodlot – they create delicious mists, candles and luxurious olive oil based soap bars with vetiver, rose and palo santo.
Can you describe your ideal foodie night out in Vancouver?
I’d start off my night off with a drink at The Keefer Bar for the most divinely crafted cocktails and sexy atmosphere – my favorite is their rosemary gimlet. For dinner, the acclaimed Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie is one of Vancouver’s brightest culinary stars located in Chinatown. They serve up dishes that reflect Chinese classical flavors with a modern twist. My favourite is the steak tartare with taro root chips and the prawn wontons with chillies. They offer an outstanding selection of strong cocktails and a carefully curated wine list.
I know you’re a fellow avid adventurer – where in the world are you dreaming of journeying to next?
I’ve always wanted to go to India because I have an ancestral connection on my mother’s side from the Gujarat region. I’m dreaming of travelling to India with my dear friend Sophena, whose family owns a textile and Indian import shop called Maiwa here in Vancouver. Sophena has been to India over 25 times and it’s her second home, so there’s no better person to experience all of the colours, flavors, sights, sounds and smells of India with. Maiwa are experts on textiles and fabric and they have been working with artists for over 30 years, it would be incredible to see and experience how some of these textiles are crafted.
Why is travel important to you?
Travel expands my perceptions of how others live in the world. I want to experience and learn about other cultures and to cultivate my own sensibilities of different ways of living and perceptions of life. Another reason to travel for me is to explore new culinary experiences and techniques and share them with Feisty Feast. Food informs so many fascinating aspects of a culture and I’d like to make it my mission to learn about what the locals eat wherever I find myself.
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