What Is Chaos Cooking?

Building friendships, one chicken pot pie at a time

I'd been receiving emails about Chaos Cooking since it was first promoted in Austin during 2013's SXSW. I finally took the plunge and attended a Chaos Cooking party in Austin this past weekend. The concept began in 2009, when Joe Che began hosting parties in his New York apartment where friends would gather to communally cook.

Chaos Cooking guests trying to squeeze in at the stove (Photo by Rachel Feit)

The idea was that each person brought ingredients and supplies needed to cook one dish. The party started with everyone jostling for space around the stove, over countertops, or at just about any flat surface that could be used for food prep. The parties were so successful he brought the idea to other cities across the country. Since 2009, Chaos Cooking parties have been hosted in Chicago, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Miami, and even in Iowa City, among others.

One guest uses a paddle grater from Bali to grate fresh coconut for raita (Photo by Rachel Feit)

There is a magic that occurs when people start talking about food. It’s a connection, a sense of shared experience. The same thing happens when people cook together and have an opportunity to share bits of themselves with others. Through Chaos Cooking people share ideas, ingredients, and cooking utensils, as well as stories. Chaos Cooking harnesses the social alchemy that brews around food and cooking, bringing strangers together in unexpected ways.

Filling phyllo cups with sauteed mushrooms (Photo by Rachel Feit)

I knew no one at this past Saturday’s Chaos Cooking party and I admit I was a little nervous about showing up at someone’s house with a bagful of brussels sprouts and a Facebook invitation. What if I am the only guest? I worried. What if my host is weird, or worse, some sort of deviant sex trafficker? But the fear that most concerned me was, What if the food is bad?

None of my fears were realized. Deirdre Walsh and her partner Emily were model hostesses and shockingly normal. About 20 guests (many of whom were friends of Deirdre and Emily) gathered around the kitchen island, whipping up a small tornado. Amazingly, it all worked. The conversation was amusing, and the food highlights included coconut raita, baked brie with pecans and brown sugar, crawfish etouffee, sautéed chanterelle mushrooms in phyllo cups, and poached pears. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Pears poached in red wine (Photo by Rachel Feit)

Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to food@austinchronicle.com

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

SXSW Leaping Online With 2021 Dates
SXSW Leaping Online With 2021 Dates
Confirms conference, film fest, and Edu

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 22, 2020

ATX Television Festival Goes From Small Screen to Big Screen to Small Screen Again
ATX Television Festival Goes From Small Screen to Big Screen to Small Screen Again
How the celebration of TV is leading the way in streaming fests as it becomes ATX TV ... From the Couch!

Richard Whittaker, June 5, 2020

More by Rachel Feit
Kitchen Ghosts
Kitchen Ghosts
Unearthing Austin's culinary history: Schneider Beer Vaults

May 20, 2016

Walking the Fine-Dining Line
Walking the Fine-Dining Line
How much is too much for Austin diners?

May 6, 2016


Food events, social networking, Chaos cooking, Chaos, cooking, parties, SXSW, friendship

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle