Close encounters with designer dishes. Artists and architects surprise!

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Cheese Head, Courtesy Nikolai Haas

Dinner is served! Art is on the menu. Two cookbooks, one kaleidoscopic and the other more laid back, reveal the secrets of famous artists and the architect John Pawson’s culinary passions.

The multi-award-winning Olafur Eliasson came up with the idea some years ago – a recipe book for 100 vegetarian dishes, the ones that were served to his studio staff. His love of good food spurred him into opening a pop-up restaurant in Reykjavik, along with his sister, the chef Victoria Eliasdottir, in 2018, where art installations could naturally be found alongside the popular recipes. Like magnets, food and art have always been attracted to each other from the Manifesto of Futurist Cooking to the menu devised by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy for a dinner in honour of Gropius, who was leaving for Harvard, and Les Diners de Gala, the Surrealist cookery book signed and illustrated by Salvador Dali, in which the artist reveals the secrets of the sumptuous dinners prepared by him and his wife/muse Gala, and the conceptual recipe book Le Corbuffet: Edible Art and Design Classics (Prestel, 2019) by the Canadian artist, photographer and writer Esther Choi, inspired by various artists to whom she has dedicated particular dishes – from the Frida Kale-o Salad in honour of Frida Kahlo to the Rem Koolhaas-inspired Rem Brûlée.

The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists features 70 artists and 100 recipes, putting international creatives such as Ghada Amer, Jimmie Durham, Philippe Parreno, Carsten Höller, Dorothy Iannone, Zina Saro-Wiwa and, again, Olafur Eliasson, in charge of the kitchen. The recipes are real or made-up, simple or complicated, serious or amusing. Some, such as the one that calls for two cherries, are downright bewildering. When it comes to ingredients, measurements and compositions, creativity knows no bounds. The book is in a league of its own as regards its editorial approach, too, as Massimo Bottura, creator of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana, notes in his introduction: “At first everything about this book is alarming […]. The food doesn’t look like cookbook food […]. The recipe format changes all the time. There are strange diagrams, collages and poems. […] There are images that look like they have been borrowed from science textbooks, there is eccentric lettering, and some nearly illegible handwriting.” Then the revelation. The meaning and the spirit of the creation. The recipes become what they seem: self-portraits, little spyholes into the artists’ studios. So, a cookery book or an art book? This was the dilemma facing the multi-starred chef, who resolved it by reading it like an art book “and then I got the flavour of it: create.”

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The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists. Phaidon

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Ghada Amer, Mama’s Eggplant Salad. The Carrot Vendor, December 2018

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Laure Provost. The Wantee Tea, 2013, Installation view at Schwitters in Britain, Tate Britain, London,2013. Ph Hydar Dewach

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Laura Wilson, The Humbova

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The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists. Phaidon

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The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists. Phaidon

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The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists. Phaidon

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Artists are also fascinated by the discreet allure of food, not just the artistic elite. In 2000 John Pawson co-authored the book Living and Eating, with the food writer Annie Bell, set in his Notting Hill home. In a minimalist style and featuring easy, tasty recipes, this culinary bible quickly went out of print and was selling for a thousand pounds on the second-hand market. Urged by fans to write another best-seller, several years later Pawson produced a recipe book inspired by the countryside and the changing seasons. Set this time in his Oxfordshire home, a group of 17th century agricultural buildings, discovered by chance during a charity cycle ride and purchased the following year, Home Farm Cooking was written with his wife Catherine, an interior designer and decorator, and put together with Alison Morris, who has been a constant presence in his publishing projects. This cookbook is the last step in the Pawsons’ new life, with Home Farm becoming a true family home, children coming and going and friends staying over for weekends. Gathering around the table for zero-km food marks the daily and human dimension of these two creatives. The recipes are ordered by season, created by Catherine or given to her by chefs, suggested by friends or inspired by recipe books of various kinds, then prepared and cooked and brought to the table, where they were photographed, giving the reader the impression of being one of the guests at the feast. The tables are rigorously set with crockery and cutlery designed by the head of the household himself.

Each chapter gradually introduces the reader to the season in which it’s set with an evocative image and a text describing the place, the land and the feelings they induce at that particular time of year. Each recipe comes with the nutritional values of the ingredients, their history or various annotations. The only problem is the real embarras de choix, given that there are 100 recipes, all of them appetising. The pages also reveal something of the lives of the Pawsons, their measured approach to the property and to its transformation and their engagement with rural life. Cooking is an act of love and sharing, as Catherine points out. It is a highly liberating and imaginative activity. Because cooking also constitutes a piece of art or architecture.

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Home Farm Cooking, by Catherine & John Pawson, Phaidon

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The barn kitchen, Ph Gilbert McCarraghe

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The farmhouse sitting room, Ph Gilbert McCarraghe

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Spring, Warm salad of Jersey Royals, asparagus and pancetta Ph Gilbert McCarragher

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Summer, Elderflower and raspberry jelly Ph Gilbert McCarragher

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Home Farm Cooking, by Catherine & John Pawson, Phaidon. Autumn, FishPie Ph Gilbert McCarragher

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Home Farm Cooking, by Catherine & John Pawson, Phaidon. Winter, Saffron chicken tagine with dried fruits Ph Gilbert McCarragher

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Title: The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists

Authors: Phaidon Editors

Introduction by Massimo Bottura

Published by: Phaidon

Published: 2021

Pages: 288

Language: English

 

Title: Home Farm Cooking

Authors: Catherine and John Pawson

Published by: Phaidon

Published: 2021

Pages: 272

Language: English

5 November 2021