the short version
Who: Olaiya Land
What: professional cook, photographer, culinary travel guru
When: I started Milly's Kitchen in July of 2014. I had no idea how rewarding this little blog would turn out to be.
Where: Seattle // Paris
Why: Because my favorite thing is gathering people together around my table. Because there's so much world to see. Because I picked up a camera one day and fell in love.
the longer version
Hello! I'm Olaiya.
I believe that beauty belongs in everyone’s life. This blog is my space to infuse more beauty into my own life (and perhaps yours, too) through cooking, travel, photography and stories.
My most vivid childhood memories include helping my grandmother tend the flowers in her garden. Standing on a chair beside her at the stove as she cooked. Watching her set her hair on huge pink rollers amid a cloud of hairspray and perfume. Milly showed me that you don’t need tons of money to have a rich life. That beauty is all around us in the little things. And that red lipstick never hurts.
My education in the beautiful took on new form when I landed in Paris to study art and history as an undergrad. I immediately knew I needed to make that city part of me somehow. The effortless, beauty of Paris was a revelation. An inspiration. And reminded me of Milly, I think.
After college, I packed my bags and returned to Paris and Brussels to study and work. I fell in love with the architecture, the eclectic style, the markets, the languages buzzing through the streets.
And the food.
In Paris and Brussels I learned to eat. I threw myself into it with a zeal I didn’t know I possessed. I walked everywhere, hoping to discover new cafes and bakeries and cheese shops tucked away down unassuming side streets. If there was a dish on a menu I’d never heard of, I ordered it. When I wasn’t studying, I cooked. Through innumerable dinner parties and working in professional kitchens, I sharpened my culinary skills while finishing a master’s degree in history. I enrolled in a PhD program and plugged away at that until one day it struck me that my heart was in the kitchen and not in academia.
I re-packed my bags and moved back to the US, inspired to continue cooking as a career. In Seattle, I have been lucky to work with super-talented chefs and small business owners who are dedicated to creating the kind of magical food and spaces that bring people together: Renee Erickson and Susan Kaplan at Boat Street Kitchen, Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg at Delancey, Mataio and Jessica Gillis at Ciao Thyme, Lara Hamilton and Kyle Wisner at Book Larder. My culinary experiences in Seattle eventually led to the founding of The Pantry with pastry-chef Brandi Henderson.
In 2013, I decided to embark on a new project and realize a longtime dream: leading culinary adventures to my favorite cities. Now I lead culinary and photography retreats designed to help people bring more creativity and inspiration into their lives.
I started Milly's Kitchen to document my wanderings and to encourage people to live a beautiful life full of good food and exploration. This blog is a celebration of some of the most valuable things my grandma taught me. The secrets of a great pie crust. That there’s always time to walk barefoot through the summer grass. That a hot bowl of soup can cure a case of the blues. That cooking for those you love is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
I look forward to sharing with you and hope you’ll share right on back. Because there are few things in life so beautiful as gathering around the table to share food, stories and ourselves.
1. What sort of camera do you shoot with? I started this blog with a Canon t5i + Canon 50mm 1.4 + Sigma Art Series 18-35 1.8 (love that lens!). I now use a Canon 5d mark iii + Canon 24-70mm 2.8 for digital work and mostly my Pentax K1000 with 50mm 2.0 lens and Kodak Portra film for analog photography. The next lenses I'm planning to add to my collection are the Sigma Art Series 50mm 1.4 and a Canon 100mm 2.8 macro.
2. How can I become a better photographer? I know this is not new, but I think the very best advice is to practice as much as possible. I also took as many food photography and styling workshops as I could afford (I still do!). This is where I learned the most. There's nothing like seeing someone else's process in person and being able to ask questions and get feedback from someone's whose work you admire. Or, you can take a class. I take classes at the Photo Center Northwest here in Seattle whenever I have the time. I can't tell you how great their classes are! My technical skill (and confidence) has increased immensely since I started taking classes there.
3. Can I use one of your images on my website or blog? If you are a blogger or nonprofit organization, feel free to use up to 2 of my images. Please link back to the original post and to millys-kitchen.com if you do so. If you are a for-profit business, please shoot me an email to enquire about rates.
4. Are you interested in collaborating on a food/travel/photography project? Absolutely! I love collaborating with other creative folks. Get in touch if you have an idea you'd like to work on together.
5. Are you available for freelance work? Yes. If you feel my style is a good match for your product/project, you can email me here. I'd love to hear from you
6. Do you do sponsored posts or work with advertisers? At this point, no. If you have a product that I love and use or that is absolutely fantastic, I'd be happy to tell the world about it though, so it's always worth reaching out to me. :)