Guess who’s cooking dinner?

The holy wide web gains more territory in my daily activity and becomes my favorite playground these days as it is the IT-spot for hidden treasures and special people.

Last year, a secret whispered in my ear, revealed something about Pop-up Dinners, so I wanted to check whether there is a Romanian version somewhere to be found as well.

The answer is “Oh, yeah!”. So I wrote an email craving for more information and the next thing you know it all ended in a nice interview with Irina and Vali, two deliciously sociable people.

 The team

 Left: Irina & Vali/ Center: The Awesome Project/ Right:  One great team – Daniel, Irina & Vali

© Photo-objective, Mircea Paun at nou9


Hello and thank you both for doing this!

PopUp Dinner – the Romanian version – is a great initiative, especially for those like me, who have a big appetite for meeting people and an infinite enthusiasm for love-cooked dishes. What is the story behind this tasty idea?

Pop-up Dinner is an international concept (and as far as we know, we are the very first to introduce it in Romania); actually, it is a series of dinners organized in unusual, atypical locations, which appear and then disappear (hence pop-up), a sort of exclusive and special events, where people get the chance to meet the cook as well as to connect with new people with various backgrounds. The idea has come from our dear friend Silvia, who lives in London and knows my passion for cooking – she suggested we gave the concept a try.

The beginning was difficult, the very first editions happened at our place and were attended mostly by our friends, but then word got out and we were solicited for all sorts of locations. PopUp Dinner is now held weekly in various locations and we hope there will be many more editions to come.


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© Photo-objective, Mircea Paun


Do you remember your first pop-up dinner? How did that go?

As I was saying, the very first PopUp Dinner happened at our place. It was the 21st of June 2012. All our friends were enthusiastic about the idea, so we just cooked this amazing first dinner. Our 9 guests were served carrot cream soup with oranges and ginger, Quiche Lorraine with lettuce and pomegranates and they had cheesecake for dessert. We were complimented and praised and my heart was filled with joy just watching them sit at the table and enjoying the meal I have cooked.

That is a cook’s joy: knowing that his clients are satisfied and their multiple various tastes enthralled. The first evening was a success and that was how it all started.

In a few words, what is the concept of the pop-up dinners you are hosting?

PopUp Dinner started with my passion for cooking (in my free time) and was fed by the praises of friends who savored my food and by the pleasure my husband takes in permanent communication, so we decided to mix our two passions, in such a way that people might enjoy a tasty and unusual dinner and the company of friends or even of newly-acquainted people.

I conceived the menu as a three-course meal: starters, main course and dessert – I have to say I wasn’t that much into desserts, as they are a little too restrictive, considering my improvisation-based cooking technique, but then why not? So I started searching and trying new recipes – in fact, this is what I love best: creating the menu, harmonizing all three courses.



© Photo-objective, Mircea Paun


It was said that: ”There are going to be people who know more about food and recipes, can prepare faster and will generally outperform you in the kitchen but you need to live your dream.”

Do you agree? And how did you surpass roadblocks, if any, while building this project from scratch?

🙂 I totally agree – some are better, others are quicker or more inventive, but as long as you do what you love and follow your dream, there is no way you cannot succeed. I’ve had my obstacles, right from the first PopUp edition: two days before I was ill, my stomach hurt, I couldn’t eat a thing and I almost cancelled the whole thing, but then I said “No, I am going forward with this!”.

The worst thing was that I couldn’t taste the food, so everything was done according to my instinct – you see, I was so weakened I could barely stand up. But then the guests arrived and they sat at the table and ate and they praised the soup, and I instantly felt better and carried through the first PopUp Dinner. Another time we had no water at home, I had to buy still water to cook, but then the tap water was back, thank God! However, everybody supported me and my dream and here we are, organizing the 10th edition!

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© Photo-objective, Mircea Paun


Passion, dedication and creativity, not just following recipes. What other ingredients do you use when cooking for others?

Love and support from the dear ones. If one doesn’t put some love into the cooking process, then there is nothing special at all.

What was the best compliment or experience you had so far since starting this project?

Each and every good word, each and every compliment and praise have pushed me forward, each and every smile and kiss brought me closer to my dream. I have always joked that PopUp Dinner is nice as people get to kiss the cook – and that’s true, every guest comes over and thanks me and in that moment I feel like I’m floating. I thank my family for their incessant support, my husband – my tower of strength as well as my greatest critic, to all my friends who have been there for me ever since the first edition.



Not just great food, but great fun too – © Photo-objective, Mircea Paun


What’s next for 2013? What are you looking forward to this year?

The year has already started with proposals for varied locations – from restaurants to shops or unusual bars and the number of places at the table has gone up to 30 guests per edition. We want to change locations each week and hope to get together as many lovers of good food and socializing, in a pleasant atmosphere, with carefully-chosen music playing in the background.

My plans for 2013 include attending a cooking course I am quite enthusiastic about (the best and the most famous local cooking course, that is), in order to get a certification which is attested both in Romania and abroad.

As for PopUp Dinner, we have more projects (we shan’t give out any secret “recipe” yet) and we really hope they all come true and for PopUup Dinner to become as well-known in Romania as it is abroad.

Irina, thank you so much for your time!

Friends, whether you are accustomed to such events or are a newbie like I am, be sure to book your seats for the next PopUp Dinner organized by Irina and Vali! I am most certain it will be an amazing experience, as these two are amazing people to start with.