We had the good fortune of connecting with Joshua Arky and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joshua, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
LA CENA began not as a business, but a recital concept. We were discussing one day how we could combine our passions for singing and cooking, and the idea we landed on was, rather simply, a recital that combined singing and cooking. Over the course of a few months, we developed a recital program that featured music ranging in style from German Lieder to Disney classics and centering around a few food-related themes: natural beauty, hosting a dinner party, cooking a feast, eating, and the impacts of our eating choices. We paired these songs with a multi-course dinner, which we prepared and served to our guests throughout the recital while performing the music. These live LA CENA recitals were a lot of fun, but became impossible to produce in its original form once the pandemic set in. When the pandemic began, we moved to creating digital content, and that’s where we are today. We were driven to continue creating during a time when our main industry — the world of professional opera — was shutting down. It is difficult to continue producing opera at the scale most of us are familiar with, but LA CENA is small and incredibly adaptable. Since the pandemic began, we have produced a variety of videos that blend music and food, which range from formal cooking tutorials accompanied by music to absolutely goofy Les Misérables covers. We will soon be releasing a more substantial video that replicates the style of our original, live LA CENA events, and we also have virtual cooking and singing classes and a virtual cookbook in the works. LA CENA began as a way to connect deeply with audiences in an intimate setting. It has become a space for us to explore new ways to express ourselves through music and food, to support our community in San Diego and elsewhere through our art, to encourage other musicians to express themselves in nontraditional formats, and to promote the importance of cooking and sustainable eating.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have been training and working as a professional opera singer for the last seven years. Over that time I have traveled the States and sung at opera houses both large and small. I have particularly enjoyed working for companies whose artistic team I connect with personally. The personal connections with other artists is what is most meaningful to me, since I believe when the team really jives, so does the performance. I like to think that the audience can feel that collaborative energy, but I’ve never run a study to test whether they do! These days, when I’m not working on LA CENA, I give singing lessons from home. I teach students of many ages and with many different musical interests, which has been so exciting for me. The human voice is an incredible instrument, and there is so much in common in good singing across genres. I also work as an academic and test-prep tutor, and on occasion I am a for-hire gardener. My life as a singer has almost always included odd jobs here and there, and the time since the pandemic has been no exception.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Wednesday: We start our week taking it easy in OB. Maybe my friends are a bit jet lagged and tired from travel, so there’s no better place to relax. We stop by the farmers’ market to eat tamales and browse the stalls. We round things out with a drink at Culture Brewing, and if my friends aren’t too exhausted, a stroll down to Sunset Cliffs. Thursday: We start the day with a stroll down to Heartwork Coffee, my favorite coffee shop in our neighborhood. On the way back to the apartment, we grab pastries at Bread and Cie, and go to town. Perhaps we take a walk over to Balboa Park, and lounge in the grass for a bit. For lunch we hit up Dumplings N More for the best lamb dumplings in town. We walk it off by heading down to the canyon, then double back for a nap (very important). We drive down to Barrio Logan to check out Chicano Park and go to ¡Salud! for tacos. I require my friends to order at least one Barrio taco. Friday: Today we drive out to Alpine to cool off and take a hike. After a good schvitz, we drive back and head to TJ Tacos in Escondido for some of the best tacos in town. My friends complain that the lines are long, and I tell them to deal. We all leave happy.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
LA CENA would not be where it is today without the immense support and friendship of pianist Ines Irawati. Ines has been an amazing and enthusiastic collaborator from day one. She brings so much life to this project, and almost never accepts any of the loads of credit she deserves. LA CENA is also deeply indebted to the help of Monique Kunewalder and Mimi Lee, two San Diego women who have supported LA CENA from the beginning. Monique and Mimi have been at our side throughout the different iterations of our project, and are both incredible advocates for our work.
Michelle Law, Joshua Arky, Alexandra Rodrick