Olivia Higgs is a young entrepreneur and co-founder of Rassa an innovative online cookery school, launching in January. Olivia’s keen interest in data and AI led her to give a TEDx talk on AI in the US - focusing on its effects on society. Olivia’s go to dishes are a quality Tiramisu that’s travelled down the generations, or a Thai Laab with a Mango and chilli salad.
What is Rassa?
Rassa is a DIY recipe kit, online cooking school and gastronomic travel guide rolled into one easy to use platform. Led by some of the best chefs from around the world, Rassa puts culture and heritage ingredients at its core to help people discover, learn about and understand cuisines from around the world. Pick the cuisine you’re most interested in and learn through videos, weekly Q&A’s and live classes with the chefs to master a new cuisine in a matter of weeks. You can learn the techniques behind Middle Eastern cheesemaking and spice blending, or take a virtual tour through the wet markets of Manila alongside Masterchef Gene Gonzalez.
What inspired you to start the business up?
The pandemic brought the world to a standstill for a short while, but it also allowed us to take a step back and re-evaluate the direction the hospitality industry was going towards. Pre-2020, there were too many cookie cutter restaurants opening, with chefs having no choice but to work gruelling hours in kitchens - creating food they weren’t passionate about. We’re providing chefs around the world with an alternative to those kitchens, giving them a chance to share their food, their learnings and their stories with the world. Culture sits at the core of our business, and helping chefs create professional courses for often overlooked cuisines has provided everyone with an alternative to westernised cooking schools teaching classical French cooking.
Who are the chefs leading the course?
We’re working with a range of expert chefs who are some of the best in their field when it comes to cooking. Some of our chefs include Filipino chef Budgie Montoya of Sarap, Israeli chefs Eyal Jagermann (prev. The Barbary) and Tomer Hauptman behind Anan and TV Chef Kevin Dundon from Ireland.
What sets you apart from others online cookery courses?
There are two big problems with existing online cooking courses today - the first is access to specialist ingredients when cooking dishes from around the world, and the second is the lack of interactivity and hands-on learning that you get from in-person classes. At the end of the day - cooking and eating food should be a social activity and we’ve made community one of our top priorities. When you’re part of one of our courses you’re part of both a small group, and a wider community of people that you can share your creations, mistakes and experiences with. On top of that we hold weekly Q&A’s, social events, and you can get questions answered by your instructors at the tap of a button. When it comes to the specialist ingredients, we provide everyone on our courses with everything they need to complete the course - from fish boning tweezers and falafel shapers to artisan elderflower balsamic and olive oil produced by a non-profit bringing Arab and Jewish communities together working towards a more peaceful future.
But there was one other thing that we felt nearly all online cooking courses failed to deliver on - culture. Many cooking schools today focus on teaching the techniques and skills associated with classical French cooking, leaving out the unique stories, and techniques associated with cultures from around the world. Food is about bringing people together to share experiences - and we believe you can’t do that without helping people discover the culture, and the country behind a cuisine which is why we provide people learning through Rassa with in-depth stories and documentary style content taking them on virtual tours around the countries and cuisines they’re learning about.
What dishes are you most excited about on the course?
On the savoury side, the class on cold-smoking salmon from home was so much fun to do - you burn Irish black tea and use the smoke to delicately flavour your salmon. On the sweet side, it’s a toss up between the Zohar (orange blossom) cake and the filipino Suman - sweet coconut rice steamed in banana leaves.
Can anyone sign up to Rassa?
If you’re curious when it comes to your food and open to trying new flavours and cuisines, then Rassa is for you! With the classes where there are more difficult techniques involved, you are given a more approachable alternative so you can make the dish work for your cooking ability. You can sign up here: http://www.joinrassa.com.
Tell us a little more about the Rassa community
The Rassa community is a space for people to get to know each other, as well as the chefs helping them master the cuisine they’re learning about. You can share your creations, swap tips and indulge in conversations about all things food and culture. The chefs are heavily involved in the community and are on hand to answer any questions to help with techniques or changes to a dish. But they’re also there to share their own stories, to meet people from around the world, and to help foster a community of people excited about traveling the world through food. And the journey doesn’t stop at the end of the course. The community lives on, giving people the chance to continue to develop their skills, and explore new cuisines - from books, to restaurant recommendations, and everything in between.
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