The story of Mazí Mas begins Maria Marouli who grew up on the island of Evia in Greece and married a carpenter. After the military coup in 1967, they moved to the United States with their two teenage children. After travelling throughout the United States wherever Maria’s husband could find work they settled in Astoria, the Greek part of Queens.
Finding herself at home alone most of the time, and with only a primary school education and rudimentary English, Maria started to care for a two-year girl and cultivating her passion for food. In London 25 years later the girl started to volunteer in community kitchens where she met women like her godmother: migrant women who could not find work, or did not have the right to work, and had little support to help them find their feet in a new place.
In 2012, Nikandre Kopcke, a half-Greek and half-German New Yorker set up a restaurant staffed entirely by refugee and migrant women called Mazí Mas. Maria couldn’t open the bakery wanted, but those women will make it.
Following their vision of a world in which women are full, equal, and independent participants in public life, their care work valued, their voices heard, and their skill rewarded, Mazí Mas works relentlessly to nurture their aspirations.
Based in Hackney, the restaurant currently employs of female chefs from Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey, Senegal, Peru, Nicaragua, Turkey, Brazil and Nepal.
It is easy to forget the people who find themselves trapped in a tough reality made of restrictions, borders, migrations and linguistic barriers, Mazí Mas provides a safe environment where women can flourish and grow together, and where their experience, knowledge and personalities embody their travels and cultural specificities to nurture their independence and the sense of community and sharing.
This summer Serpentine Galleries and Mazí Mas joined forces to create an incredible series of gatherings, Radical Kitchen, that run every Wednesday at 1PM until 23rd August in the Pavilion 2017, focused on community, food and sharing among people from different places and environments, raising awareness around topics such as freedom, community, entitlement, migration and citizenship.
Many stories are shared by the women throughout the sessions; Mazi Mas kitchen manager Roberta Siao, who has worked with Kopcke since the beginning, learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, in Rio de Janeiro.
Binding the public and private spheres, cooking recipes from their past and dear to their hearts, and sharing their experience and stories release women from loneliness, and gives them a space to create their own narratives. Mazí Mas gives those women a voice, beautiful and diverse, delicious and poignant, a constant process of storytelling trough spices and flavours, shared meals and cross-cultural collaboration.