• Ellie's Table is all about homely feasts at your door. (Instagram)Source: Instagram
This chef prepares feasts from her home kitchen for you to collect at her doorstep.
By
Lisa Marie Corso

10 Aug 2020 - 1:43 PM  UPDATED 10 Aug 2020 - 1:43 PM

Look around your home kitchen. Now imagine cooking in it for 150 people on a Sunday. For most of us, this is hard to visualise but for Ellie Bouhadana this is her reality.  

Well, technically she starts the process on the Saturday when she preps the dough for 15 trays of focaccia, which require 30 hours of resting and proofing time. 

"My job's definitely taught me to be good at maths," she says of her expertly coordinated schedule. The process oversees each tray of focaccia enter and exit her domestic oven as if they're passing a baton to each other in an Olympic track relay. 

Bouhadana's epic Sunday cook-ups are a recent addition to her schedule and the result of a masterful pivot during the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Before COVID I was hosting pop-up dinners in and around my local area Balaclava and Ripponlea [in Melbourne], where I'd cook up a three course trattoria inspired menu," she says of her business Ellie's Table. "But that all had to end because I couldn't do communal dining anymore."

Bouhadana launched Ellie's Table in early 2019 after returning home from three years living in Israel. "My family background is Moroccan-Israeli, so I travelled to and lived in Israel for a few years in a commune with 13 people," she says. 

"I loved it because we'd always be cooking for each other and this has really influenced the style of communal dining I bring to my business."

En route back to Melbourne, Bouhadana and her partner spent five weeks travelling around Italy. 

"Our days were just about eating and thinking about the next meal," she laughs. "On this trip I really started experimenting with Italian cooking, taking lessons and soaking up as much local knowledge as I could."

When Bouhadana landed home, she immediately knew she'd parlay her love of food into a business. 

"I knew my passion was food and that's all I wanted to do."

Wasting no time, Bouhdana started experimenting with a pop-up dinner concept that embraced the Italian trattoria model of casual, three course dining including antipasto, main and dessert. She hosted the dinner at a family friend’s space and cooked for 40 friends and friends-of-friends. 

"The space was an empty shell mid-renovation and had no kitchen, so we set-up a makeshift kitchen, put together a long table and lit some candles," she remembers. 

"Seeing everyone the first time around the table, sharing food and conversation with new friends made me so happy."

The pop-ups kept coming and they kept selling out but as demand for them was rising, the pandemic hit, causing Bouhdana to shift gears. 

"Seeing everyone the first time around the table, sharing food and conversation with new friends made me so happy."

"I knew I still wanted to bring people together and that's how the Doorstep Dinners first started, I offered a similar three-course menu you'd get at the pop-up and delivered them to about 20 houses."

Week after week, Bouhadana upped the number of servings offered, which has now found her cooking for 150 people each Sunday. To accommodate, customers now collect their dinner from her doorstep and prep their dinner at home. 

But don't worry assembly is easy. Just dunk your fresh pasta in boiling water, strain, then mix with the sauce Bouhadana has lovingly cooked. 

Sunday's the big kitchen day but Bouhadana starts work on Tuesday when she tests the menu she'll offer that week. 

"I'll chat to my suppliers and see what's in season and think about what pasta and sauce pairings I'll offer."

The rotating menu features Italian classics. Antipasto might be peperonata or cured artichokes and is always served with focaccia. She cooks two types of handmade pasta and two types of sauces, inviting the diner to mix and match at their discretion. Then there's dessert, which could be anything from tiramisu to chocolate mousse with mascarpone cream with crushed amaretti biscuits atop. 

"I guess the thought behind it all is to create your own trattoria experience in your dining room by yourself or with your partner, family or housemates," she says.  

"I provide everything you need to do so in your kit with the food, cute napkins and a menu card, all you need to do is light a candle and you're good-to-go."

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