Imagine arriving to a dinner party to find an otherwise-unassuming space completely transformed. Inspired by the beautifully improvised feel of wabi sabi, a long communal table awaits set with flickering candles, rustic floral arrangements, and block-printed table linens from India. Soon, you’ll be treated to a multi-course meal, inspired by global flavors — maybe French-influenced, or else Moroccan — lovingly prepared by a celebrated local chef. Whilst plates are passed and the wine flows, a featured speaker leads a discussion on their topic of expertise — from aging gracefully to self-worth to sexual empowerment, hardly anything is off-limits. In the meantime, and throughout the evening, you’ll mingle with fellow guests ranging in age, ethnicity, nationality, and profession. The spectrum is broad and multi-faceted, but one thing rings true: you’re all women.
It’s exactly the kind of dinner party Julia Khan Anselmo dreamt up six years ago, and what began as a whisper of an idea, spurred from her own kitchen, has evolved into an international supper club, a meeting of the minds, and a celebration of women.
After studying art history in London and her native Calgary, Alberta, Khan Anselmo envisioned a career that followed suit, working a host of jobs for corporate and non-profit companies until landing her dream role for an international art consulting group in Vancouver.
All too soon, the company downsized, leaving her disappointed and with little direction, save for an alternative route to finding purpose. Reframing the scenario, she considered not what she should do, but instead how she actually spent her time, and what came most naturally to her.
“I was hosting a lot of dinner parties on the weekends and meeting interesting women. I was so curious about what their story was while cooking and connecting people,” explains Khan Anselmo.
“Especially when I was meeting people who I thought were really successful and living their truth and had created a path for themselves, I would ask them their stories. I was like, ‘Ok, I’m on this path now, and I want to know what you did.’ It’s so rare that the answer will be ‘I went to school, then I got this job,’ rather, it’s more often that they’ll go through some bigger struggle to get where they are.”
A prolific home chef and dinner party hostess, she wove in her lifelong passion for food and entertaining, largely inspired by her father, and Feisty Feast was born.
“We grew up in Calgary, but my parents wanted us to experience the world and they did that through food. At eight years old, I was eating caviar,” she laughs. Khan Anselmo attributes her love of hosting largely to her Portuguese father, who passed away last year.
“My dad was always experimenting — he traveled a lot, he was a bon vivant, and he loved to cook and host dinner parties,” she recalls. “I think what it is that you’re meant to do is often right there — it’s in you. I love cooking and connecting with people, so I thought, ‘I’m going to start a supper club in my apartment.’ And that’s what I did.”
Feisty Feast has since evolved from its humble beginnings when Khan Anselmo would host in her own home and cook the whole menu herself. From a Moroccan design loft in San Francisco to an old dairy in East London, the locations are unexpected and bespoke, while the chefs and themes are always different. This month’s event in London marks the 18th edition, but it feels like the series is just getting started.
Along with her father, Khan Anselmo says her mother (a young woman who immigrated to Canada from her native Trinidad), was also an integral example for her of female determination, ambition, and generosity.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve been a feminist since I was five years old, it was just natural. It’s the way I was raised,” she insists. “My mom is a huge inspiration and a hustler — she worked very hard. She put my sister and me through private schools and horseback riding — she gave us everything. And she would help women in need — if she knew a woman who was struggling, she would bring them into our home.”
Decades later, that spark for connectivity and support has inspired friendships and networks among women wherever Khan Anselmo goes. Every Feisty Feast, though ticketed, is open to all self-identifying women of all ages, colors, and backgrounds.
“We’re coming together to celebrate each other, to connect, to hear stories of women around us and to also share our experiences,” says the founder. “Because that’s what community is, that’s how people used to live — where every part of the family is important, and elders weren’t put away into homes, they were still a part of the family, sharing their lessons and being celebrated.”
From the very first dinners in Vancouver to others in San Francisco, London, and Amsterdam (where she now lives with her fiancé), the events have always put a focus on sharing wisdom, with past discussions covering topics like women, money, self-worth, pleasure, and aging with pride.
“I think the storytelling element is so important, and I’m so inspired by these people,” says the connector of her guest speakers. “They aren’t famous, they’re people in the community, interesting women who inspire.”
She hopes the events will cause a ripple effect, inspiring camaraderie and strength among women across the table.
“I really grew myself as a young entrepreneur because there were so many amazing people creating their own businesses and helping one another, and that’s what Feisty Feast is really about,” says Khan Anselmo. “I’ve seen collaborations happen and it’s amazing. It’s a real, community-building event.”
Tickets are still available for the next Feisty Feast event, happening in London this May with the theme ‘Aging with Pride.’ Tickets and more information are available here.