What is art?
Art, to me, is the aesthetic application of all that human creativity has to offer.
Far from being confined to canvasses alone art is dynamic, variable and most importantly unpredictable. It can astound, excite and surprise; something that can be qualified in the most astonishing forms.
Over the years the creative mediums of cooking and art have become ever more closely aligned. Some of the worlds most prestigious chefs have begun to blur this boundary, producing dishes that could rival any painting or sculpture.
This was something that I was lucky enough to experience at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant, The Fat Duck. His unconventional and experimental approach to cooking has won him critical acclaim along with an impressive three Michelin stars.
Eating his food was comparable to taking a trip around an art gallery. His exceptional dishes conveyed an outstanding attention to detail and have to be some of the most breathtaking pieces of art that I have ever seen.
Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop:
A playful bag of sweets dripping with nostalgia with the ability to transport anyone back to their childhood. These weren’t ordinary sweets of course (not a penny sweet in sight) but an eclectic mix of flavours and aromas displayed in handmade (edible!) wrappers. We were treated to aerated chocolate with mandarin jelly, coconut baccy, a caramel chew and a hand-painted white chocolate playing card. This was attention to detail at it’s best - transporting us back in time as we were able to dip into our bags at leisure.
Like traditional forms of art Blumenthal’s food had the ability to make me feel - evoking a number of different emotions. I felt giddy, child-like, immature, something that a sandwich just can’t do.
Mad Hatter’s Tea
If you were able to tune in to Heston’s Feats last series you might recognise this dish. Paying homage to the past with his version of mock-turtle soup this dish is aesthetically breathtaking.
I felt guilty ‘ruining’ his Wonderland with my knife and fork. The dish not only looked amazing but it also completely transported me to another world. Like Alice I felt as if I was falling down the rabbit hole - I was experiencing new, completely alien sensations which made me feel nervous but excited at the same time. Strange sights and aromas made my experience one that was multi-sensory forcing me into a state of escapism.
I was no longer sat in a restaurant, I was IN Wonderland. I was sat on a toadstool and I was sipping tea with the Mad Hatter (OK, so it wasn’t the Mad Hatter, it was my mum, but believe me this comparison comes pretty close!).
Roast Foie Gras
This is what I would define as ‘Art on a plate’.
The dish had a perfect mix of textures, colours and techniques; things that we would expect from pieces of traditional art. The mixture between hard and soft worked perfectly with the contrast that was created between the hot and cold elements of the dish.
Blumenthal’s fine dining always comes with a twist. The contrast that he has already created through mixing textures and flavours permeate through to the dishes visual qualities. Muted colours are seen in contrast to bold red sauce that accompanies the main body of the dish. In addition to this the fun polka-dot effect of the garnish links back to Blumenthal’s playful attitude towards food; an idea that can be identified in all of his dishes.
Sound of the Sea
This was another dish that offered a multi-sensory experience to the diner.
Visually, the dish mimicked a traditional ‘seaside’. With a mixture fish, sand, shells and a foam wave - a mouthful of this felt as if you were tasting the seaside. Moreover the dish was also presented on a sand-filled plate to further enhance the multi-sensory aspect of this particular dish.
The food was accompanied by a shell with a hidden MP3 player. We were told to listen to the soothing sounds of waves as we ate our food. This something unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I felt completely isolated for the 10 minutes it took me to eat my food. It felt as if I was walking along a secluded beach eating fish and chips: admittedly the taste was a lot better than fish and chips, but you catch my drift.
My experience really made me think about the boundaries between art and culture. With imagination art is boundless. What may look simple at first can be transformed; human creativity is unlimited and what we can do with it is limitless.
Like Blumenthal we should keep pushing these artistic boundaries the product of which could be genius.
- By Alex Rowe.