Fruit still lives always have been subject to art. Nowadays, these beautiful compositions appear on your plate. You walk into a restaurant, pull up a chair and wait with anticipation. The server arrives with your carefully chosen meal and presents a plate that can only described as a work of art – food art. Food art is where food and art meet, a marriage between the two. Reserving your spot at an haute cuisine restaurant is now similar to buying an admission ticket to an art exhibit or museum. Chefs and artists alike are using food as a medium to push the boundaries of our assumptions of how we experience food. Eat with your eyes personified and has created expectations – tempting you to take out your phone and snap a few food pictures and share them on social media.
Our obsession with food in art is nothing new. Historically, food has been used as a subject in paintings, dating back to the Middle Ages. Food plays an important role in many cultures, representing good times. With the introduction of food art, you are no longer limited to just looking. Now, you can touch, smell, and taste it. You can even lick the plate if your heart desires.
The Various Forms of Food Art
Like the world of art, food art has many forms. The Edible Art Movement (EAM) showcases food as a medium, like one would expect from more traditional art. The movement’s motto, ‘We Art what we Eat’, shows the whimsical nature of creating a sensory experience with food. Imagine going to a dinner at an art gallery with enticing and satisfying dishes while being surrounding by artwork that utilises food, such as a sculpture made from egg shells. EAM uses anything food related to create a five sensory experience at their international events by bringing food and art into the same space. While food is being used as a medium for the abstract art pieces, the artwork itself is not always intended to be eaten.
The next type of food art adds another constraint to the contemporary art form, so that the food is both aesthetically appealing and appetising. It is creative food that you can actually eat. What more could you ask for? By employing creative plating and food styling techniques, chefs are able to take the diner on a journey and shape the dining experience. Chefs must mix edible components to push the boundaries using ingredients in non-traditional or unconventional ways.
Chocolatiers are masters at this, making towering sculptures. By moulding the chocolate into various forms and melting it down to use it as adhesive, they are able to create contemporary art that is both visually stunning and edible. Famous chocolatiers, like Mirco Della and Jacque Torres, have even made beautiful chocolates to take home with playful combinations, like bacon, chillies, and curry powder to seduce you using multiple senses.
Molecular Food Art a la Ferran Adrià
Adding one more layer of complexity stems from molecular gastronomy, which mixes art, food, and science to create truly masterful art pieces. Molecular gastronomy challenges our existing beliefs about food by exploring the physical and chemical transformations that happen while cooking. Think of this food science subdiscipline as your tech-savvy niece or nephew, incorporating new scientific innovations into the dining experience.
Molecular gastronomy can be characterised as avant-garde – similar to conceptual and abstract art – as it challenges your ideas of texture and flavour. The idea is to question your assumptions about what food is and show ingredients in a new light. Molecular gastronomy has now grow more mainstream with the release of the Modernist Cuisine series by Nathan Myhrvold, making the science of food accessible to the masses.
Through these types of food art, the boundary between food and art has been blurred and the difference between chefs and artists has been diminished as they cross over into each other’s space. Chefs use artistic expressions to present creative food, as artists utilise food for their own artistic expressions. The difference between the two concerns the end product and comes down to the basic distinction of – to eat or not to eat. The intention of its creator also determines whether the food art ends up in a gallery or on your plate. The purpose of food art is to create a discussion. Regardless of whether you are in an art gallery, restaurant, or at home – food art will transform the experience into a thought-provoking affair.
Food Art at You Next Dinner Party
Use your next dinner party as an opportunity to explore the inner artist in you and impress your guests. If your kitchen is not stocked with the latest food science tools, then start with artistic plating and food styling. Take a moment to think about your vision. Start with a concept or theme like you would with a painting to help you focus. Think about negative space, whether the food appears appetising, emphasise the natural beauty of food, and contrast the dish with its background.
Accentuate the beauty of the ingredients with bright colours and unexpected contours. Unlike paintings, food art is not limited by the size of the canvas; remember to play around with your home and décor to complete the sensory experience. Remember that food art is not only about the visual appeal. Entice your guests with interesting flavour combinations and aromas. Accentuate textures using home and décor items like napkins, dinnerware and utensils. There are no rules, so experiment and don’t forget to take food pictures!
Erasing the Boundaries
The line between food and art is a very slim one, if there is one at all. Food art pushes the boundaries and challenges the assumptions of what ingredients can or should be. It makes those eating the food use multiple senses. Food art creates another level of experience, makes you use your brain, and sparks conversation. Visual artistic expression is no longer limited to artists, but has been extended to chefs (and to you). Adding layers of excitement and seduction to each meal becomes part of the experience, such as in this Black & Gold example by Clubvivre. A mix between food and art will also be the up-coming Clubvivre signature experience Diamond Lab, featuring the Australian artist Ryan Foote.
As a child, most of us have heard ‘do not play with your food’. Yet, there is something beautiful and cathartic about sharing your artistic expression using ingredients. Food art occurs when adults get serious about playing with their food. So get your hands dirty and join in on the fun.