At Home With Vita - OLIVIA MUNIAK
AT HOME WITH VITA is a monthly interview with artists, designers, and friends who inspire us.
Olivia Muniak is a chef, entertaining and catering entrepreneur based in Los Angeles, though she originally hails from New York, where she grew up in the restaurant industry. Her upbringing led her to styling and later serving as a brand consultant on everything from events to content creation. An event production gig with Moet Henessy brought her to the West Coast, where she found creative fulfillment orchestrating visually arresting gatherings meant to inspire connection. Whether she’s making a seasonal pasta for a dinner at home with friends, shopping for branches at the flower market, or setting a table with vintage tableware she uncovered on a trip abroad; she relishes in turning meals into beautiful moments that seem to suspend time.In August of 2019, fueled by the idea of meals as a form of meaningful connection, Olivia launched La Cura Supper Club (La Cura is Italian for “the cure”), a six-course family style dinner, hosted in a private home or at a unique spot in Los Angeles, in addition to full-service catering, event and party planning.What brought you to open a catering and event company?
Olivia Muniak: I didn’t set out to open a catering and event business; it all began very organically. I had a spark of inspiration to start hosting a “supper club” – an evening that was as much about the food and wine, as it was about the conversations around the table. I had recently moved from New York City to Los Angeles and I was seeking a community and longing for those European-style dinners with friends that spilled into all hours of the evening. The Supper Club in its early stages was hosted out of my backyard, cooked by me on my vintage 24” O’keefe & Merritt stove, and I packed guests into the backyard like a tin of sardines.
During the pandemic brands were looking at ways to host intimate activations and events, and the supper club format provided that, and a platform to educate and connect with tastemakers, founders or the power-house people behind the brands. So I grew our team, rented a commercial kitchen and opened up “catering” (I’m allergic to the word). We now produce what I call food-focused events curating everything from the guest list to environment & decor, and of course, the culinary and beverage experience for our clients. In the past few years I’ve hosted Supper Club experiences or produced events and catering for Nike, Wall Street Journal & Mytheresa, Moet Hennessy, Stella McCartney, Laura Mercier and many more lifestyle brands.
Describe your entertaining style. What mood or aesthetic do you aim to evoke, which colors or textures do you gravitate towards?
Olivia Muniak: I call it fancy-lazy; every detail is thoughtful, and I always aim for a relaxed elegance that guests can feel and appreciate so it never feels fussy or too formal. I serve rustic, seasonal food, style unexpected and unique florals, and scout out special glassware & tabletop. One of the most creatively fulfilling parts of my work is being asked to bring brands and their products/services to life through our events. Life feels too short to box myself in with one aesthetic; so with each event I have the opportunity to have a completely new design sensibility.
What are your essentials to setting a festive table at home and how are they similar or do they differ from setting a table for an ‘Olivia Muniak’ or Supper Club event?
Olivia Muniak: I have an unquenchable thirst for tabletop and glassware. For me, it’s about building a collection of the “basics” but they don’t have to be boring. Even for a casual meal at home, I set out plates, linens, glassware, cutlery and unique serving pieces, and a fresh cut floral or branch. I draw inspiration from the seasons – the food, a beautiful floral I happened on at the market, or impetus for the dinner, and go from there.
When I am planning for a client I’m usually starting with a product launch so there is a prescription there and it’s my job to make it tangible and seen in every element of the event.
I have a few rules: never disposable at a party or even a weekend picnic. Evening tables should always be candle-lit, and lunch should never be.
Who inspires your entertaining style?
Olivia Muniak: My incredibly chic mother, she always made all the small moments special. Growing up I can remember her pulling Indian sarai’s that she had purchased on a family trip and deciding to use them as a tablecloth for Christmas, or grab sea shells from the beach to make a napkin ring. She encouraged my creativity and imagination. I would say I wanted a scone and we would go home and bake them, then she’d pack an adorable picnic and take me to Riverside Park for a scone picnic with jam, butter and a cute basket. It was this very resourceful and playful approach that instilled in me all of life’s moments, small or grand can and should be celebrated.
Where do you seek aesthetic and menu inspiration?
Olivia Muniak: I draw so much inspiration from travel, especially Italy for all its gifts – the architecture, food, and style. I love to read cook books (and always the author's foreword). To me they are art books that not only hone my craft through reading but also sparks an idea on how to play with ingredients or flavors.
No Supper Club or dinner party is complete without:
Olivia Muniak: Good lighting, welcome aperitivo and an after dinner drink (I love an Amaro), fresh cut flowers or branches.
Where was the most memorable tablescape you’ve ever seen?
Olivia Muniak: I always go back to this one dinner in Mallorca, Spain, for my childhood friend's 30th birthday at her family home. It was so casual, unfussy and gorgeous. We set one long table for 30 guests, there were white lilies and cigarettes with chic lighters all down the table (it’s Europe after-all) . We ate platefuls of Paella and drank Negroni’s well into the morning.
Any tips on how to transform a space into an inviting environment for entertaining guests?
Olivia Muniak: A clean space makes people feel welcome and at ease, then it’s all in the details: fresh air, moody lighting and a small bud vase of flowers in the bathroom or scented candle. Setting out a carafe of water, wines in a bucket or a pitcher of a premixed cocktail, a bowl of nuts & olives. These all sound small but when done guests don’t feel like they are bothering you to ask for anything.
Describe the perfect summer meal. Do you have a go-to summer recipe to share?
Olivia Muniak: Al fresco, with friends somewhere by the sea (preferably Italy). A perfect glass of chilled wine with an added ice cube. Ripe tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, lots of herbs, pasta pasta pasta, grilled fish & vegetables. Due espresso, and finally dessert.
Linking my two summer favorites: Swordfish Skewers with Salsa Verde and Sun Gold Pomodoro Pasta with Ricotta Salata & Mint.
Who features heavily on your entertaining playlist?
Olivia Muniak: I love Orchestra Baobab and Cesaria Evora – my father used to play it when I was young and I’ve always loved the music.
What are your favorite purveyors or resources to pick up local produce, provisions, or catering?
Olivia Muniak: We aim to get all our produce from local farmers markets, Santa Monica Farmers Market and the Hollywood Farmers Market are some of the best. My favorites are McKinely Farms, Finely Farms, Tutti Fruitti, Andy’s Orchard, and Flora Bella.
For wines I work with the lovely ladies at Arguax and Salutay, many of the wines they source are small production, women helmed wine companies and we find unique varietals that satisfy any palette.
Whose home would you be the most excited to be invited to for dinner, and why?
Olivia Muniak: I follow Nancy Silverton on Instagram, she owns a home in Italy and I love seeing her posts pop-up about what she found at the market, the meals she casually puts together with friends. She’s been a pioneer in the Los Angeles food scene for decades and she’s still going.
Who would you love to have as a dinner party guest in your home, and why?
Olivia Muniak: My grandmother, she was a total firecracker and it would mean the world to me to share my life and business with her now, she would get a kick out of the Supper Club. She bought me my first Kitchen Aid when I was in elementary school, and she would hang out with me for hours and wash up while I made a huge mess baking, it is such a fond memory of mine.