Culinary Curation with Olivia Muniak
An expert at effortless entertaining with an elegant twist, chef Olivia Muniak is an advocate for ‘lazy-fancy’ recipes and simple yet sensorial tablescapes. She is also the creative mind behind Muniak Studio, which produces the edible experiences of events small and large, including our recent Los Angeles grand opening. Below, Olivia explains how thoughtful touches can enhance the joy of gathering together over a shared meal.
When did your love of food begin?
Growing up in a New York restaurant family, I have always been immersed in food and hospitality. As an adult, I loved to cook for friends, but it was as much about hosting a beautiful dinner as it was about the food. The moment I actually cherish most is when the food is done. Everyone is lingering at the table, getting lost in conversation – in Spain, they call it this ‘sobremesa’ – and this is at the core of every aspect of my business.
Tell us a bit about your career path and the people who have mentored you along the way.
After a few years of exploring different paths, I realized I wanted to make cooking and event design my career. I thought of following in my family's footsteps and opening a restaurant, so I got a job at Gjelina, but I burned out and realized restaurant life was not for me. Around the same time, I returned to my background in brand marketing as a freelancer producing events for Moet Hennessy. The alchemy of food, wine, and luxury brand experience resonated deeply with me. Although I found this work fulfilling, I sought more environments to cook, host, and connect with like-minded people – so I created Supper Club. These were events I hosted at my home or with brand partners and centered on food and drink in a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere, plus supported community, education, and, of course – fun!
Soon, Supper Club became a bespoke Event Design and curated Catering company. We now have a commissary kitchen and a small team based in LA and tend to work on exciting projects like brand activations, product launches, PR-related events, and occasional social functions like birthdays, weddings, and holiday parties.
Regarding mentors that have shaped my path, two women in particular stand out. Julia Fitzroy hired me for Moet Hennessy. Her grace and poise in stressful situations always struck me; I recognized we accomplish so much more by remaining calm and kind, especially in this industry. Chloe Brakha and I were put together to co-produce a La Grande Dame champagne event. She had almost two decades of experience working with event design agencies. She shared so much insight and ways of working that were pivotal for me.
Is there a cookbook that has special sentimentality for you?
The most worn and stained cookbook in my collection is definitely Gjelina. It's more of a chef's cookbook as the recipes are a little complex and the ingredients are hard to source at a local grocery store. It taught me you can make the best version of something if you follow every step – and once you've got that down, you can make something similarly tasty with fewer steps. Plus, when I left the restaurant, I had every chef and cook sign the pages – this was the original team, including Executive Chef Travis Lett.
What are the sights, sounds and scents we’d find in your kitchen right now?
A construction zone! I moved into my new home this September, and we are just beginning the full kitchen remodel and design.
Are there any habits you practice to prepare yourself or your surroundings before you dive into cooking?
A non-negotiable for me, whether it’s event planning or the kitchen, is a completely clean workspace. Having my surroundings free from clutter and “to-do lists” supports my creativity and staying focused on the task at hand.
What objects or utensils in your ritual of cooking bring you joy?
This fall, I launched a line of timeless tabletop pieces. Ceramic and handmade in LA, the collection is elegant but also full of textural details that bring a tactile element to the ritual of cooking. For example, I love the feel of grabbing a pinch of flaky salt from the Sal e Sal Salt Cellar Duo.
Preparing a tablescape for guests is also a beautiful ritual, and these pieces are multifunctional, serving as both decor and serve ware. You'll find me using the Fiore Carafe as a wine decanter one week and then the following week styling it on the table with a single-stem flower or branch.
Is there a particular ingredient that calls to mind a sense of comfort?
Fall equals comfort, and I am currently stirring up my favorite seasonal recipes, either a Classic Bolognese or a Lamb Ragu; both are deliciously hearty and quickly whipped up as a weeknight dinner or served as a rustic dinner party dish.
Similar to how our customers want to understand how their rugs are made, it seems like people are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from. Why do you think that is?
Today, we're much more aware of the impact of our consumption, from home to beauty products to the food we eat. I think we also see the effect it has on our joy. For example, a vegetable from a major chain grocery store will not taste as fresh or feel as good as the same vegetable from a local farmers' market. Plus, more chefs are highlighting the affordability of local produce, and that's also opening minds.
How important are aesthetics and presentation in your style of cooking?
We eat with our senses first. The visual beauty of a dish and our surroundings help create the experience. It's the reason we love a restaurant so much; it's not only the food – it's also the vibe! When I host, my approach is to create a lazy-fancy feel, something that feels elevated and memorable but not overdone or requires too much effort.
As an entertaining extraordinaire, do you have any advice to put guests at ease?
Being a relaxed and fun host is key. If you are enjoying yourself, so are your guests! A few ways I ensure I'm calm is by doing much of the cooking, decor styling, and clean-up before guests arrive. It's more work in advance, but when I do, I feel like I'm a part of the party instead of being stuck in the kitchen away from my guests.
What other rituals do you practice to stay grounded?
Holidays are a hectic period for me and last year it wore on my nerves. To stay grounded, I looked for ways to get outdoors and unplug – for me, that's riding horses and tennis. During these busy periods when you can't take an entire day off, I also look for moments to unwind within each day, like a walk to a coffee shop or a stroll through a store after a meeting. However, the best tool to keep me grounded is prioritizing fun, joy, and connection like a dinner, beach day, or aperitivo with friends. It helps me enjoy every moment, even the crazy busy ones!