Insight: Designing Seasonal Tablescapes and Innovative Malaysian Recipes with London-based Content Creator, Kirthanaa Naidu
Featuring Kirthanaa Naidu (@kirthanaa) in the Preston (Chestnut Brown)
When and how did you start cooking and baking?
Cooking has always been a big part of my life as my mum is an amazing cook. Being Indian-Malaysian, she mainly cooked Indian dishes like biryani, tosai, appam and lots of curries. As Malaysia has one of the most rich and diverse culinary traditions in the world, I was constantly trying a wide range of dishes – I really was spoilt for choice. And so when I moved to the UK I brought with me the flavours and culinary traditions from home.
My love for baking has steadily grown over the years. I started baking at school, making cakes for birthdays and special occasions. Over the first lockdown, I did an online baking course with PUFF The Bakery, which gave me the confidence to bake more technical stuff.
What first sparked your interest in tablescape designing and content creation?
I’ve always loved hosting, and so creating a beautiful and welcoming environment is something I have been doing for a long time. The biggest step I took was to post my creations on Instagram, whether that was food or table settings. The first lockdown was the perfect opportunity to do this, as I was no longer able to host friends in the way that I had but still felt an urge to create and capture special moments at home. With this extra free time, I took the daunting step of posting on Instagram and haven’t looked back since.
Where do you draw inspiration from and how would you define the style of your tablescapes?
I’m definitely someone who can take inspiration from anywhere - whether its the current season, my surroundings, or the mood I’m in. Because of the changeable nature of my inspirations, I always find it difficult to pin down what my ‘style’ is. I’d say that I always try to create a harmonious aesthetic, with complementary colours, with just the right amount of objects in frame so its never too cluttered.
Can you tell us a bit more about your Malaysian supper clubs?
I’ve hosted three Malaysian supper clubs to date, which have all been great experiences. The dishes are taken from a range of Malaysian cuisines, as we have a wide array of different cooking cultures within Malaysia. This very much encapsulates my experiences of Malaysia, as when I am out with family we will spend an entire evening going to our favourite restaurants, stalls and markets to find our favourite foods. It often means we’ll have several meals in a single evening!
At my supper clubs, I serve the food family style where there are several, usually 8-10, dishes in the middle of the table for everyone to pass around and share. And of course the table will be beautifully set too to create a friendly ambience. I really hope to host another Malaysian Supperclub soon, I plan to host one this summer so watch this space!
What are your top tips for styling the perfect table?
When it comes to setting your table, fresh, seasonal flowers and candles
If you’d like to get creative with your tablecloth, I’d recommend buying some fabric and finishing it off with some hem tape and an iron. It’s a cheaper way to change up your tablescape and it’s more sustainable, as you can buy dead stock that otherwise may go to waste.
As time goes on and you start to develop an eye and taste for the things you like, you can be bolder and buy a few more investment pieces – I have really enjoyed building my collection with a few pieces from sellers and creators that I love.
What are your top tips on how to balance freelance work alongside a full-time job?
There’s no denying balancing freelance work with a full time job is difficult. But I’d say the most important thing is to be kind to yourself, be honest with colleagues at work about your pressures, and hope you have a wonderful and supporting team (as I do at Amnesty).
Kirthanaa's Round of Speed Dating with DMY
1. What is your go-to drink?
An IPA, Spicy Margarita or a natural wine :)
2. What was the last thing you Googled?
‘How to get from Athens to Milos by ferry’ (I’m longing for a trip to a Greek island)
3. What was the last book you read?
East Side Voices: Essays Celebrating East and Southeast Asian Identity in Britain by Helena Lee
4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Mexico - I love the food, the culture and everything about it!
5. What is your favourite TV show?
This Is Us
6. What would be your ideal date?
Heading to a wine bar in East, followed by a dinner at Oren or Little Duck The Picklery
7. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Hackney Gelato - Chocolate Sorbet with an additional sprinkle of sea salt. Try it and thank me later :)
8. What’s the best and worst purchase you’ve ever made?
Best: Investing in braces a couple of years ago
Worst: Making a hotel booking for the wrong year only to find out on arrival
9. What was your first concert?
Pussycat Dolls back home in Malaysia, I had to watch most of the show on the big screen as I was too small to see the stage!
10. Make a party playlist with only 3 songs:
Benny Moré ‘Bonito y sabroso’
Santana ‘Oye Como Va’
Rosalía ‘Aute Cuture’