Sunday, December 26, 2010


One of my brothers and I were casually flipping through Appetite's recent A-List on the airplane (Appetite's chosen 12 professionals- sommeliers, chefs, GMs who have made an impact on 2010 or whom we expect to make a big splash in 2011), and I was telling him about each of the personalities.

We came across the page with Chef Daniel Texter and I started summarizing the text, telling him the irony of his sunny personality and pretty dessert pieces in contrast to his death metal music interest.  I told him about a music festival for death metal, and my brother responded with a very strange expression, "Uh yeah... that is kind of weird and unexpected."  So we continue the conversation and he's still really weirded out until finally he realizes, "Oh, DEATH, not DEAF.  I thought he went to annual DEAF Music Festivals."

Totally politically incorrect, but we couldn't help but crack up for a good long time, wondering how the hell deaf music concerts worked for the non-deaf.

FOODSCAPES: You've never seen food photography like this

Look closely.
What do you see?

Jackfruit, dragonfruit, broccoli, pineapples, breadcrumbs....

Stare at the images in wonderment about which parts of the landscape are digital, which are real and what types of food are used to create it.  Carl Warner produces fantastic landscapes, made entirely of actual food products...  Cliffs are made of sour dough bread, forests made of celery, oceans made of salmon, houses made of garlic.

I featured one of his pieces in the December/January holiday issue of Appetite magazine, but due to text limits, I couldn't do much but let the piece speak for itself (yet a beautiful last page of the December issue, I might add).

Here on Gastronommy though, I'd like to include a short Q+A with the creator, Carl Warner and show you some of his dazzling work.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Pleasant Deception

I spy cabbage skies...

Calling his work, "the pleasant deception," Carl Warner is a photographic artists who creates projects entirely out of food.

What inspired you to start working with food?
It’s the fact that it is an organic material that has such amazing similarities to the larger aspects of the natural world. Also it is something that people relate to easily and have a natural affinity with. I am also a big foodie, I love to eat well and dine out. Food is something we can all afford to be passionate about.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using food as art material?

The advantage is that there is such an incredible choice of ingredients in terms of shape, texture and colours. My palette is a three dimensional one which I can choose from around the globe.

The disadvantage is that it perishes and so we have to work very quickly, especially when creating a large scene and under hot studio lights. Certainly things like fresh herbs are a nightmare as they wilt and dry out before your eyes.

How do you come up with your landscape concepts?

I have sketchbooks full of ideas and drawings of details or wider scenes.  Inspiration can come from visiting a place or it in a film, on the web or in a magazine.  My inspiration can come from wandering around the supermarket or farmers market, or even in a restaurant.  I don't mind where they come from, so long as they come.

Once inspired, I pin it down on paper like Peter Pan's shadow being nailed down.  The drawing then becomes the blueprint for the shot which I show to my team, who then help me create the scene.

What is the average food budget?
Around a few hundred pounds (sterling), but this can vary depending on the size of the scene and how exotic the ingredients are.  Lobsters are going to cost a lot more than one scene made of cabbage.  There is also a lot more polystyrene in the scenes than food, and I have learned to build more with that in order to use less food.

How large are these landscapes?
They vary based on the scene.  I have a triangular table top which is about 12ft across the back, 9 ft deep.  The point nearest the camera is cut off so my foreground is only a couple feet across.  The table top is perfectly married up to the viewing angle of my wide angled lens.

Which was the most difficult image to create?

The most difficult is also my favorite, the Fishscape scene.  We had to get it all done in one day because of the smell.  Certain things I thought would work just didn't.  For example, the wake of the fishing boats didn't work with using small fish like sprats like I thought they would.  My food stylist saved the day by cutting sides of salmon and overlaying them onto the herring to form the wave patterns.  It's this kind of team effort with my food stylist and model maker that often pushes the work to a level that I hadn't expected.  It's exciting and rewarding.

What can we find in your new book?
The book is a culmination of the Foodscapes I have created over the last ten years together with several new scenes created especially for the book. It shows ‘behind the scenes’ shots of me and my team at work creating them, and I write about how they were inspired and conceived, showing the early sketches and the list of ingredients used in each image. I wanted the book to be more than just a coffee table book of ‘food pornography’ but a real insight into the processes of involved from initial idea to completed work.

He has also released a book recently, a compilation of all his food photography work over the past 10 years.  Just in time for Christmas.  Add that to my wishlist: Carl Warner Foodscapes

Friday, December 17, 2010

Restaurant critiquing: "It's good.... for Singapore"

Today in conversation, my editor asked me if it was difficult coming from New York to not be openly critical when writing my reviews.  Familiar with the unforgiving culinary journalism scene in Manhattan, she was wondering how I felt about writing in Singapore, where most food critics are only neutral at worst.

In addition to the relatively conservative culture here, it's a small town with a tiny industry network in Singapore.  Very few are brave enough to step on some toes (there are of course, the overly obnoxious sorts, who go beyond plain honesty and enter the realm of being diva-levels of disrespectful).  Answering her question, I feel my biggest dilemma is deciding how to scale the critiques--do I base my experience according to world standards like New York, Paris, Tokyo?  Or do I keep it on a local scale: "Yes, it's good... for Singapore."

Over dinner the other day with fellow New Yorker, Notabilia, she pointed out with amusement, "I notice everyone who has lived abroad at some point says that.  'It's not bad... by Singapore standards'."  She moved to Singapore just 6 weeks ago. 

Singapore is rapidly changing.  It's an exciting time.  Within just one year, countless chefs of international acclaim are opening up their doors here- Joel Robuchon, Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali, Tetsuya Wakuda, Guy Savoy, Susur Lee, Santi Santamaria, just to name a few.  And while there are still only a small handful of talented homegrown chefs who can keep up with the big boys, programs like the Culinary Institute of America are coming in and the culinary scene here will only continue to get better.  Thus, I can only be inclined to compare Singapore restaurants according to world standards.  I have great expectations of this mini island country.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making Macarons: French vs. Italian Method [guest contributor]

Macarons. The 2 Methods of Making
by Jack LEE (part of a macaron series on Jack's blog)

When it comes to macarons, there are two methods of making them: the French method and the Italian method. Some chefs will tell you, they swear by the French method, and another will not hear of anything than the other. And knowing how chefs or pastry chefs are, once they have their mind set on their own philosophy, it is then a one way street. Personally, I don't have much of a preference, however if I were to choose to make macarons, I would most likely choose the Italian method over the French. *Only because you have less of a chance to over mix your batter.

In this post, I will explain the differences between the two methods.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Because Sharing is Caring (Free Ice-Cream for you!)

I can only eat so much ice-cream in a month, so I'll be giving away this Ben & Jerry's voucher for 2 Free Scoops of any flavor!

All you have to do is click this link and tell me what your favorite flavor of ice-cream is!  Winner will be randomly selected from the comments.  You have 5 days, starting... now!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gastronommy TV: Mastering tea at Sanctuary T (NYC) [teaser video]

This video is long overdue.  Shot back in July in Soho, New York, "Tea Dude" East Grace Lee teaches us about the origins of tea, how to appreciate tea, how to steep the perfect cup and he gives us a recipe for one of his favorite tea cocktails.

Cameras: Patrick Lew and Matthew Won.  

In the meantime, 
Gastronommy readers get a 15% discount on any tea at Sanctuary T's online shop.  Use coupon code NOMMYTEA at the checkout.

Sanctuary T Restaurant
337B West Broadway
New York, NY
Tel: +1 (212) 941-7832


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