You can only imagine the nightmare food blogger and -caterer Julie Chiku must have felt when finding out she was allergic to everything she was basing her living on. “I was in a state of shock, and had to take some time off from cooking, while taking strong medications and finding out, on a day-to day-basis, what I could actually eat”, she says. Luckily, she used the bad luck to her advantage, embracing allergy-friendly foods as a way of strengthening her business.
It’s probably right to call Oslo the first big love of my life. Although I’m born and raised in the southern town of Kristiansand, I have always felt more at home in Oslo. A large part of my family lived here, so we often visited the big city when growing up, and I just loved how big everything was. Most of my friends from back home were older than me, and they all moved to Oslo as soon as they could. When I went to junior high, I would jump on the bus to Oslo when the school bell rang on Fridays, and just hang out there over the weekend, before taking the bus back home come Sunday. I hardly dare to think of how many times I bussed back and forth. After a couple of years with weekend- and summer commuting it was finally time to make a permanent move. I can truly call it the best time of my life.
Then I got the job that would turn out to define my life and my career. It was quite an ordinary student job, working as a barista at a small sandwich joint called Blings. At Blings I met other enthusiastic foodies, as well as my boss Anders Bråthen, I guess I can call him my mentor really. When he left to go and open Smalhans, I started working at Mathallen, but I didn’t enjoy working there whatsoever and I was clueless as what to do with my life.
That’s when I decided to open my own catering business. At first I was rather weary, and thought it might be impossible. But then I got a couple of regular clients, and by word of mouth and Instagram recommendations, I suddenly found myself alone in my tiny kitchen with over thirty clients to attend to. It was quite overwhelming, and I didn’t have the capacity to get all the jobs done. And on top of that, I fell ill. I discovered that my body was in a terrible state, and that I didn’t tolerate gluten, lactose, egg, yeast or sugar. Or in other words, EVERYTHING I based my living on. I was in a state of shock, and had to take some time off from cooking, while taking strong medications and finding out, on a day-to day-basis, what I could actually eat.
During this time when I was experimenting with allergy-friendly foods, I realized I couldn’t continue doing small catering jobs. They were simply not profitable enough, and I was hardly able to cash a paycheck. But while I was ill, and not looking to work, the requests just kept on piling up, and not just for catering jobs. I bravely accepted all the offers, and now I have actually recorded my own TV-program, styled commercials and product images, as well as an entire cookbook! I write regularly for Godt, Norway’s largest online food portal. And I also write my own food blog, which focuses on organic and allergy-friendly food, which just keeps growing. Lately, I have also taken up catering again, but with larger clients who focus on honest, organic food. I have also moved the business into a large kitchen and office space close to my apartment, which allows me to make more food, and spend more time on experimentation and writing.
Even though I’ve now scored a great workspace in my Torshov neighbourhood, I find myself working the best, and the most efficient, in cafés. In my favourite coffee shop, Supreme Roastworks, it’s however not so easy to get any work done, because I ALWAYS run into someone I know. Over liters of coffee, I have also gotten to know loads of new people, and I have even named their signature iced-coffee.
Oslo is still my favourite city, and I will probably never move anywhere else. Every time I go travelling, it’s such a great feeling to return home. To the great coffee, the fantastic food and the best people!