A taste for great food design
Assistant Curator Sergi Vich before opening night of a new exhibition called Foodjects at the ACT Craft and Design Centre. Photo: Jay Cronan
For those who managed to get a table, eating at world famous Spanish restaurant elBulli was, by all reports, an experience like no other.
Think game meat cappucinos, think clam meringues, for years elBulli was thought the world’s best, and trailblazed a scientific approach to food that was imitated time and again at restaurants throughout the globe.
The Guardian’s John Carlin was one of the lucky ones when he nabbed a spot at the restaurant north of Barcelona in 1998.
‘‘This was Gaudí’s architecture brought to the kitchen. This was the culinary equivalent of the Cirque du Soleil, complete with acrobats, magicians and clowns,’’ he later wrote.
Chef Ferran Adria was pushing the boundaries of what food is, and how we eat it. It was madness in a way, creativity taken to extremes.
Foodjects, a new exhibition at Craft ACT, gives an insight into that world of playfulness, of beauty, of food turned on its head. It is a small collection of the tools and utensils, the cutlery and crockery that Adria used at elBulli, and his compatriots continue to use in the creation of the new Spanish cuisine. They include Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz, a restaurant also considered one of the best.
Foodject’s assistant curator Sergi Vich says chefs are now a great creative inspiration of designers in Spain.
In one case, designer Luki Huber worked with Adria for two years, watching him cook and designing equipment and utensils for him.
‘‘[Foodjects] is a reflection of this creative co-operation between producers, designers and chefs,’’ Vich says.
From that partnership emerged a sleek silver spoon with a pincer attached, which was designed so the diner tastes one thing and smells another, with herbs or other fragrant foodstuffs held in the pincer.
Another example from the top end, a surreal wine glass with a spout designed by Martin Azua and Gerard Moline, was inspired by a traditional Spanish parron wine drinking bottle, but made individualised and delicate, in glass. The idea is to hold the glass jauntily in the air and pour your beverage into your mouth.
Those inclusions may be entirely haute cuisine, but equally revealing are the objects of the new Spanish cuisine which have become a part of everyday life. Vich says a simple silicone case, which can be used to steam food when placed in the oven or microwave, had recently become standard in many Spanish kitchens. It is supposed to create an intense flavour, where food loses none of its natural taste in the cooking process.
Vich says, perhaps like all great design, the objects of the new Spanish cuisine were developed out of necessity. New food needed new equipment.
‘‘The chefs have become the reference of Spain, more than the artists or architects, so they need someone to help them express this new cuisine, so they get designers and work together,’’ he said.
Adria was widely considered the best chef in the world, but El Bulli ran at a loss and closed last year. It did so with a reported waiting list of diners of close to one million. Foodjects is a chance to get an idea of what all the fuss was about.