It’s a well-known adage that too many cooks in the kitchen could spoil the broth, but for those at the Sculptureum Gallery in Matakana, this is the most, the happiest.
On Friday, the gallery will harness the talents of five separate chefs for a five-course tasting dinner at its Rothko restaurant, each dish inspired by a work of Sculptureum art.
The Art of Tasting is one of many events organized as part of Elemental, a festival celebrating music, art and food in Auckland.
Alongside Rothko’s chef, Josh Hazel, there will be Thibault Peniarbelle, chef at revered Ponsonby restaurant, Andiamo Eatery, Lesley Chandra from gourmet establishment Sidart, Jason Kim from Korean joint Gochu from Commercial Bay, and Nico Bonnaud, the master pastry chef and chocolatier behind Honest Chocolat.
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The event is like a tasting class at some of the city’s best dining establishments, says Bonnaud, but rather than hopping off to restaurants, guests can enjoy it all in the comfort of the rustic Matakana space.
Guests will be encouraged to stroll through the six galleries before dinner, where they can browse the weird and wonderful creations that are housed at the Sculptureum. They will then be able to compare and contrast the food with the works of art that inspired each chef.
“I spent a few days wandering around the gallery, trying to find something that suited me,” says Hazel, whose chosen art object is a hamsa hand framed in vivid colors and intricate detail. The piece, created by Melbourne-based artist Justine Kuran, channels the intricate paperworking technique of quilling, and sees dozens of expertly rolled papers forged into flowers and rippling patterns.
Some can see the outline of the outstretched fingers at first glance, but for Hazel’s food-centric mind, the right thumb silhouetted a bird’s beak. It was these bird visuals and the vibrancy of the color palette that inspired his dish: a medium dish of charred quail with grapes, dukkah and egg yolk.
The correlation between works of art and dishes is more evident with some chefs than with others.
The ceramic sculpture chosen by Chandra, consisting of more than 120 clay pipes, features undulating layers and elegant white rings reminiscent of squid, which will feature in his journey as a kingfisher.
Peniarbelle’s chosen piece of art, a giant glass pear, ensures that the fruit will play a prominent role in its offering of a pork and duck terrine.
Kim’s nature-focused sculpture, featuring mushrooms in a deep forest, inspired her fourth ‘rich and hearty’ Korean barbecue-style dish, featuring wood-fired grilled ribs with grilled kimchi and oyster mushrooms.
Bonnaud, however, departs from the obvious and opts for a more abstract piece.
“It is not always a question of reproducing the work of art in a dish, it is rather a question of being inspired by it”, explains Bonnaud, whose chosen piece is a confronting and multi-texture creation that oscillates between painting and sculpture.
“I find it easier to create when things are more conceptual,” he explains.
“You see, the artwork is pretty crazy, but if you look at all the details, it’s about layers and textures, which the course will take inspiration from.”
The piece, titled Please Ma’am, was created by local Auckland artist Rohan Wealleans and sees layers of paint building up to create something that comes out of the canvas.
It is this use of layering and Wealleans’ no-waste approach – it leaves no paint spared – that encouraged Bonnaud to produce a dessert that is textured and constructed from local, sustainable ingredients.
In the evening, Bonnaud’s dark chocolate dessert, embellished with olive oil and tangerine, will be presented to some 120 guests by the waiters and the five chefs, so that participants can meet the men behind the menu.
“It gives us the opportunity to interact with customers and talk about our dishes,” says Hazel.
“We’ll explain how we found the inspiration behind them and why we used the ingredients the way we did.”
It will also be an opportunity for art lovers around the dining table to discuss with the chefs on their own interpretation of the works.
“Sculptureum aims to make art accessible and eliminate snobbery,” explains Sarah White, the gallery’s marketing director, who runs the event.
“It’s pretty unconventional here, and we really wanted to make art as accessible to everyone as possible.”
‘The Art of Degustation’ takes place on Friday July 23 at the Sculptureum Gallery in Matakana. Tickets can be purchased at scultureum.nz.