Philosopher, adorable baker, promising seamstress, co-founder of El Olvidado
By a thick wooden table at a melancholic -almost alienated, yet brand new- coffee shop, El Olvidado (The forgotten one), Luisa waited our table and joined us while telling us stories about the origin of the place and her passion for cooking. As a philosophy student, opening a coffee shop has been a brand new experience that has opened a door to a new kind of lifestyle.
As far as I can remember, I think we have always had the dream of opening a place like this. We all love to cook at home, especially my mother and me, therefore, El Olvidado ended up being a project in which we all participated. I’ve always cooked and baked by myself at home, for myself, friends or even made canapes for exhibitions and events.
Both my grandmother and mother are architects and have done very nice country-style houses. My brother Anthony is studying to become an architect, so we chose to let him design the place his way, based on what my mother and grandmother do, but much more modern. Everybody had their say in it, but Anthony made the major decisions. This was like a family project; we built it together
We tried to bring to the place a traditional English touch by rescuing some of my grandmothers’ recipes. Our father is English, so we have all the recipes from my grandmother, who actually taught my mother how to cook, and we leant from that.
Instead of giving it a countryside feeling, we thought it would be a good idea if we brought the traditional old-fashioned into a more modern space. Not only in the architecture, but also into the food, incorporating a contemporary twist into the traditions we wanted to materialise.
It was more the idea of having two temporalities colliding together. For example, the aprons are inspired from the beginning of the 20th century, and this kind of rustic architecture with the bare display of modern and raw materials. Different moods, different temporalities in the same space.
The name El Olvidado brings a nostalgic touch to the place and we thought that it showed the intention behind it: rescuing forgotten recipes from the English countryside, the paintings made by my grandmother, and also, the place seems a little isolated and as if it was retaken from a period of abandonment.
My youngest brother Christopher studies social media, but eventually wants to become a cinematographer. At some point, we would like to host cinema discussions, movie projections, small festivals, seasonal food feasts, exhibitions, etc.
El mandil (the apron, uniform)
This is my favorite garment. Well, this is -more than anything- just personal taste. In general, like the 19th century environment and aesthetic. From the English movies, for example: the way they set the table, the way they speak, the way they present dishes. I started taking sewing classes, and thought: “well, why don’t I make myself 19th century clothing but with a modern style?” So I started doing so and then I thought: well, I’ll do that also for the coffee shop… so I am working on that, with a modern industrial atmosphere.
The selection of these objects was one of the biggest discussions we had, because I wanted to get 19th century-like kind of a silverware. For example, I imagined myself wearing this apron and serving water from this metallic old-fashioned pitchers… but then my brother said it was too much of a scenery, so we compensated with some simple and beautiful ceramic pieces. In the end it ended up being a mixture of styles.
As you can see, the decoration and the place itself is very basic. My brother had the idea that we should build with raw materials: brick, metal, concrete and wood. We didn’t even paint the walls or anything; it’s is much simplistic, very minimalistic. In that sense it is s bit cold, but what we thought is that the colors of the food would be what could bring life into the place. Our salads are very colorful!
That’s why the display by the entrance is located there, so as soon as you come in you can see all the salads and cakes and all the colors, all the teas.
Opening a cafe is something we didn’t really know how to do… neither of my brothers nor I went to business or cooking school. I did philosophy as an undergraduate and it is very different from running a coffee house; both have their own very special ways of working. Operating the place is both very creative, but also extremely practical, we are all running up and down, washing up, cooking and greeting everybody “hello, how are you?” even though you’re super tired… after 11 hours of being there. Working here opens a whole new panorama of practical life to me. I love my brother Anthony: No matter how tired he is, he is always at the door, with a big charming smile on his face, always happy to see someone come in through the door… as if this is the place where you are not forgotten.
I have fun. A day at El Olvidado entails constant improvisation, seeing what is working and what is not, what the reactions of the people are, checking everything is clean and proper.
The only two things hanging from the wall
The two paintings were made by my grandmother, she also paints and does prints. The logo of the place was made after one of these paintings, since the colors match and all of their paintings have a surreal style but a nostalgic environment, we hung them. That’s what the place wants to bring in.
My grandmother designed this frame, so as you walk upstairs, you can see the landscape of a facade detail outside the window. It outlines a countryside feeling, like a painting of the neighbour’s house.
The big windows open towards the street. I really enjoy sitting on the bench with my apron and my pitcher. I’m really excited about my apron. I just love dressing up and walking around the coffee shop with my apron and my silver jug… it’s just a personal thing I enjoy doing, but I think nobody else notices.
It is the most countryside style space.
The idea is to have simple but delicious bread. Our bread is made out of different varieties of grains, nuts and fruits, whole flours. The bread also hints the English countryside style.
Regarding the space, my brother was very thorough to keep all the details neat and well thought of. It took us around six months to decide how the place would be and look like. I’m not very spatial in my head, for me it is very difficult to visualise spatial details… so I was more obsessive with the food: how it would taste like and look like.
We began with our chef Jorge… we were very lucky to find him. We met him by chance, and were anguished because I like cooking but it’s not the same to cook at my house than to cook for many people all day long… and he’s very good! Not only did he study to become a chef, but he has the feeling and comprehension of what we thought for El Olvidado. We understand each other very well, we’re upstairs cooking together most of the time.
I’m not very good at the coffee table because I don’t really drink it. It’s my brother Anthony who made all the decisions regarding coffee. It might have been one of the most difficult things, because we didn’t think about the coffee as we did with everything else. We acquired my mother’s taste for coffee, and she drinks a very strong one, and as far as I have heard, Mexicans are not used to drinking very black and very strong coffee.
Before we opened, we did some tastings. Everybody complained for having insomnia, they thought it was too strong. We had to change to another kind that was a bit milder but still strong. Now we are trying to make a new technique in order to make the coffee in an Italian way so the cream is thicker.
We import the teas from Sweden, Germany, the United States, Singapore, China, etc… and we do our own mixtures in the house. That I’m more confident about, because I don’t really drink coffee… the idea is that the teas were also a vehicle of the rustic experience: flowers, herbs, spices.
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