Food was on the proverbial table at last night’s Nicer Tuesdays, with four speakers who engaged in all-things-edible talking us though their work in experiential food design; print and publishing; illustration and, perhaps most obscurely, edible insects.
Our first speaker was Caroline Till from multi-disciplinary design studio FranklinTill, which curated the Sensory Suppers at London Design Festival 2011. The idea was born, says Caroline, from a reaction she was hearing among designers, journalists and visitors to LDF that they wanted “no more chairs”. She explains: “There’s a rise for intangible experiences – we wanted to redesign how you interact with food.”
Each night a different studio was brought in to create a thoroughly all-consuming evening of food and sensorial delights at the Andaz hotel, each focussing on a different sense. Bompas & Parr tackled sight, paring a dining experience with a visual one through a screening of Jodorowsky’s surreal masterpiece The Holy Mountain. This involved, naturally, a four-feet-tall ice penis. “It was paraded round the tables, and guests hacked at it with an ice-pick”, Caroline explains. “There were audible groans from the men in the audience.” Food blog Stirring with Knives looked at touch, and had each guest blindfolded and fed by a personal servant; while Silent Studios orchestrated a Masonic supper, exploring how sound affected taste by bringing in a string quartet and making guests play a handbell to form a Mozart symphony to “sing” for their suppers.
The next speaker, Julene Aguirre Bielschowsky is also more than aware of the importance of a multi-sensory approach to food,having started Ento – a brand of rather beautiful, and very much edible, insect foods. “We wanted to look at sustainability in a more commercial and systemic way”, she explains, before demonstrating how efficient insects are as human food – 10kg of feed yields 9kg of edible insects, and just 1kg of edible cow.
However, Julene clearly has some obstacles in making the little critters seem an appealing lunch option. As such, the Ento team worked hard on creating a brand – one with not only a well-designed identity and packaging, but one with obvious taste-cues, too. “I looked at how a brand is a culture and how we can work with that,” she explains. “We made it playful and futuristic, with a focus on cleanness and freshness to give a Japanese or Asian subtext.”
The food itself echoes these clean lines and considered aesthetics, arranged Sushi-like in neat geometric shapes and bright colours that belie their insect origins. It’ll certainly be fascinating to see if we’ll be picking up bugs with our bento boxes in the future.
More left of centre culinary approaches arrived with our third speaker, Ken Kirton of the wonderful Hato Press, the risograph printers behind books like Studio Cookbook and the recent Cooking with Scorsese, a wonderful little publication that turns the idea of the cookbook on its head. Instead of recipes, we get stills from food-focussed films that encourage readers to look at cooking through a different, more cinematic lens. “There’s no step-by-step ingredients list – it’s all screenshots and subtitles,” says Ken. He returns again and again to the “explosive pissing beef balls” from Stephen Chow and Li Lik-Chi’s The God of Cookery – a fabulous-sounding fusion of food and kung fu. It was lovely hearing about how the Hato Press studio works, in terms of lunch plans – each day one person cooks for everyone, and from his images of yesterday’s feast (miso soup and shitaake mushrooms, if you’re interested), it sounds like Ken’s passion for cooking is reflected in the rest of the team.
Our final speaker was Tom Hovey – a hilarious and charming illustrator and sausage-dog fan who seems to have sort of fallen into one of the most visible illustration jobs of recent times – creating the images of cakes that appear on the Great British Bake Off. It’s wonderful seeing the progression and evolution of his style throughout the show’s five series; working out as he went what would work best for television in terms of line-work and colour. “I had to make all the drawings look as though the bakers had done it themselves”, he explains. “I was sent photos after each episode was filmed, and then had to represent what they planned to create – not necessarily what they actually did create.
“By series four I felt I’d finally unlocked the style I’d been striking for for five years. As the contestants’ skills have improved over the years, so have mine.”
Thanks to our sponsors Park Communications, everyone who came along and our speakers. Nicer Tuesdays will return with a special 2014 roundup on 16 December.
Sponsored by Park Communications
Founded in 1991, Park Communications is considered by many to be London’s preeminent printer. With a roster of both corporate and cultural clients, Park is a one-stop-shop to translate, artwork, print and bind literature of many different kinds, from the finest coffee table books and catalogues, through FTSE annual reports, to niche market magazines and brochures. Working closely with clients to develop bespoke creative solutions, Park’s reputation is built on the highest quality, reliability and flexibility.
They have brought their professionalism to both our Printed Pages magazine and the It’s Nice That Annual 2013, and we look forward to working with them in 2014 and beyond. To contact Park, email Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the website www.parkcom.co.uk.