From the walls to the plates, restaurant owners have always recognized the relationship between art and food. Restaurants often utilize art to create unique atmospheres that complement the artistic dishes prepared by their chefs. However, each year chefs with a passion for innovation and a love for the culinary arts push the basic concept of food into more than just nourishment for the body, creating nourishment for the imagination. While art has always played an important role in the world of food, chefs are now thinking in three dimensions and creating experiences of delicious fascinations that engage the senses and challenge the notion of playing with your food. It’s hard to imagine that something as rudimentary as food can become a work of art but more recently, the lines between culinary and the arts are becoming blurred.
Coloring Outside the Lines
To clarify, chefs have always been considered artists of their trade, creating masterpieces that dazzle and delight their guests. Now, chefs are going beyond the plate and thinking of new ways to create memorable moments for visitors. One chef who is leading the way in this trend is Chef Janice Wong, chef/owner of the restaurant 2am:dessertbar and creator of 2am:experience – both of which are located in Singapore and aim to create more than just an experience of taste, but an exploration of the senses both tasty and tactile. Known for her exceptional artistic works, we talked with Chef Wong to gain a better insight into the creative mind behind this emerging concept.
Daniel Leonard (DL): How would you define the word ‘art’ and what does that mean to you?
Chef Janice Wong (JW): Art is everything. Art is the purest form of freedom and expression. Freedom because in art there are no rules, no right or wrong, there is just what you choose to do.
DL: How did you get into making food art?
JW: I was inspired by a book. I just love the creative process of being able to create with food.
DL: I see you have a line of chocolate paints. What draws you to working with chocolate?
JW: I just love it. I love how each step has to be done right, has to be done to perfection and if not, the entire product is compromised. Just like pottery.
DL: Besides chocolate, what other mediums do you enjoy working with?
JW: Marshmallows, gummies, all confectionery essentially.
DL: Where do you find your inspiration?
JW: Daily life, nature.
DL: What has been your favorite food art concept to date?
JW: Edible painting.
DL: Do you see the concept of food art becoming a trend in the upcoming years? How would you like to see it evolve?
JW: For sure. I see artists collaborating with artists from different medium. Cross-disciplinary collaborations like music and food-art, painting along to music.
DL: What do you think your next food-inspired artistic endeavor will be?
JW: Nothing concrete yet. But definitely it has got to do with food art of a whole new different level.
Dessert and a Show
As if visually stunning creations weren’t enough on their own, chefs are also focusing on involving audiences as an important part of the process. Enticing and intriguing, visitors of these events are able to watch as these chefs create these edible art pieces. Again, we look to Chef Wong to provide insight on this reinvention of the classic “Dinner and a Show” concept.
DL: When you create art for a live audience, what goes through your mind?
JW: I think about their experience, how they must be experiencing/perceiving it.
DL: What are some of the most memorable audience comments after a performance and how did it/they affect you?
JW: That it was different, unique and novel. Definitely when you receive feedback like that, it serves as an affirmation of the vision of creating something new and something that has never been done before.
DL. If you could describe food art in one descriptive phrase for those who have never experienced it, what would it be?
It’s not only chefs, however, who are merging the worlds of art and food further. Artist Jennifer Rubell, trained in both fine and culinary arts, also believes in the creation of engaging and edible art. The article “Where Art and Food Overlap,” on stationtostation.com comments on Rubell’s work sharing, “Viewers come hungry, attending her shows expecting to partake in the piece, whether that means thousands of hard-boiled eggs next to boxes of latex gloves or thousands of donuts hung on a wall.” In 2010, Rubell covered the walls of a room with cotton candy, encouraging people to interact with this unique exhibit on a personal level to enhance their sweet experience. Chef Janice Wong also created a similar experience delighting visitors with her bergamot, seaweed and marshmallow ceiling creation, where again, people were encouraged to come up and take a piece of this art installation – to eat of course.
Like art itself, this trend is not limited to restaurants and galleries. The combination of food, art and performance can be found on local streets as well. Every day, new videos are posted to YouTube that showcase talented street food performers and their amazing creations such as cotton candy dragons made to the beats of Michael Jackson songs.
The Future of Food Creations
So, what’s next for the art of food creations? A sprinkle of technology with a side of art might be the latest addition to the menu. The advances in the world of 3D printing are already creating the next level of edible masterpieces. According to Restaurant-Hospitality.com, The Culinary Institute of America (or CIA) will soon begin teaching chefs how to use 3D food printing capabilities. “This includes the development of a series of conferences and seminars for the CIA community supported by new state-of-the-art food 3D printing technologies located at CIA campuses,” according to the article “3D Systems Partners with The Culinary Institute of America to Advance Food 3D Printing.” As more chefs become familiar with 3D printing, it raises the question of how chefs and artists will utilize this when creating their dynamic masterpieces. The concept of 3D printing has officially laid the groundwork for chefs to innovate even further and with endless possibilities.
Is Food the New Art?
Food creation is an art that continues to evolve and is showing no sign of slowing down. With the passion and creative minds of chefs, and the future of 3D food creation on the horizon, one thing is for sure: It is no longer about simply eating with your eyes; it’s about the experience of playing with your food. Whether it’s painting with chocolate or covering the walls in confections, the trend of blending art and food is one to watch. Is this the next modern era of art? I guess we will just have to wait and see.