meet the maker: ILA
words by Emily Weber | photo by Karen Mordechai
Sometimes, in the heat of cooking, we take our pantry staples for granted. We subconsciously pour olive oil into a skillet, quickly sprinkle salt on vegetables as they sauté, or reach blindly for spices from the cabinet. But, it’s important to remember that these simple ingredients are the foundation of great cooking. And without excellent basics, it’s hard to achieve a perfect finished dish.
Karen Mordechai, of Sunday Suppers and ILA, wants to bring pantry staples of the highest quality to every kitchen and, beyond that, to inspire thoughtful and communal cooking in all. She believes that food is meant to be shared with friends, family and community, that cooking should never intimidating, and that ingredients should always be sourced with great care. With these simple tenants in mind, Karen launched Sunday Suppers in Brooklyn nine years ago.
The original concept of Sunday Suppers was a communal cooking and dining space where guests could gather, cook together and share a meal. The project has since expanded to other things, including a breathtaking series of cookbooks, a new global dinner series called Sobremesa and, of course, ILA.
In keeping with the theme of community, Karen wanted to share the growing collection of high quality ingredients she and her team used for Sunday Suppers, and was inspired to found ILA in 2015. As Karen puts it, “our aim [was] to inspire individuals to gather & cook together and have ILA essentials become their kitchen staples.”
ILA comes from Hindu mythology, where it’s the name of a gentle, kind and irresistibly beautiful personality whose spirit was said to be “of the ground.” In Sanskrit, the word translates to earth, beauty and prayer. These qualities are both a poetic representation of the exterior beauty of ILA’s products and an homage to the earth that produces them.
ILA’s packaging is almost too beautiful for the kitchen. With its clean yet dramatic style, the collection of products is both a work of art and the cornerstone of any well-rounded kitchen pantry. When something is as thoughtfully packaged as ILA’s olive oil, you don’t just grab it blindly, instead, you notice it, cherish it, and use it with intention.