Beet. Chia. Cilantro. These are just a few ingredients Geraldine Maldonado uses to make her arepas. Lately, she has been fervently mixing and mashing, trying to come up with new recipes for Homemade Food Gallery, her food-art gallery startup.
Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Geraldine studied fashion merchandising and nutrition at the Miami Institute of Art before moving to New York. Her day jobs, as a health coach and a visual merchandiser at J.Crew, have her mind in a million places, but she is still able to firmly focus on her true passion: cooking.
Geraldine preparing a Venezuelan feast
When I visit Geraldine at her apartment off the Myrtle-Broadway JMZ stop one afternoon, she has an incredible Venezuelan spread in the making – caldo de pollo (chicken soup), arepas, pollo guisado (stewed chicken) and ceviche.
Since moving to the U.S. ten years ago, cooking has been a way to stay true to her roots. She doesn’t follow recipes – everything she makes comes from an idea in her head or from a familiar taste.
“I dream about food,” she tells me. “I grew up in a small Italian Venezuelan family where we all cooked. I use my memory and taste from my background.”
Hand-written recipes posted on the fridge
Since arriving in Bushwick in September of last year, Geraldine has realized her dream of combining her two passions: homemade food and contemporary art.
Homemade Food Gallery, a venture she hopes to expand this summer, combines food and art into one experience. Her dream is to open her own gallery with a kitchen where she’ll host chefs and artists.
For now, her apartment kitchen is her gallery
She is also on Cookapp, an app that has users book a private at meal at Geraldine’s apartment. She tells me the restaurant world never spoke to her – she is more interested in sharing her love for good food and getting people to cook more at home.
Geraldine’s cuisine is both an homage to Venezuela and a nod to health-conscious Brooklyn. On the table are comidas typicas of Venezuela, redone in kaleidoscope colors. Bright red, beet-infused arepas and a shocking green sauce called guasacaca are on the table. “I cook in color,” she says. Like many great home cooks, Geraldine has no formal culinary training but rather a fine-tuned intuition. While making our arepas, she knows when they’re done by flicking the top. If makes a hollow sound, it means they are ready.
When not cooking, she is painting. The basement of her apartment serves as her blank canvas. So far she’s painted three pieces on its white walls – a swirly, black-and-white emblem, a patterned door frame, and a bulls eye with its paint having dripped down to a chair. Most of the plates in her kitchen are paint-splattered and have the colorful, cheery aesthetic found throughout her apartment. Like with cooking, painting is another form of release and self-discovery.
Finally, we sit down to eat the amazing food she’s prepared while I watched.
She shows me how to split open an arepa to fill it with the stewed chicken or ceviche and eat it like a Venezuelan sandwich.
Her food is delicious, fresh, and definitely not from the freezer or a can. Clearly, I’m not the only one in love with this type of food – just walk into one of the two Guacuco restaurants in Bushwick serving homey Venezuelan fare and expect a wait.
While Geraldine might be on a major arepa kick now, she is thinking of reinventing pasta next. She won’t stop cooking until it’s right and her dream of Homemade Food Gallery is realized. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy junk food once in awhile. “Oh my god, I love buffalo wings. I’m obsessed!”
Anyone for a Venezuelan/hot wing hybrid restaurant in Bushwick? *Looking for investors.