Raised in Italy, Jacopo Sarzi is a food designer now based in London. His food related events and performances have been presented at the London Design Festival, The Somerset House, The Vitra Design Museum among other established festivals and places.
As a food designer he focuses on improving people's lifestyle through food: he is continuously researching 'hands-on techniques' and materials which relate with everyday food consumption. Since he started working with food in Paris in 2009, Jacopo Sarzi has performed, traveled, and spent the last five years examining our culinary identity in all its adventurous aspects.
What made you decide to dedicate your work to food?
The first time in my life that I can remember cooking was at the boy scouts. I was about eleven years old, we went camping and were supposed to cook for ourselves. Having the freedom to make whatever we wanted, my pals and I made a pasta with chocolate powder which from what I remember was terrible, but we all ate it with great pleasure. You see, we loved the idea of not having to follow the family kitchen rules. During my college years food evolved into my medium for bringing friends together and for meeting new people. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that I started working with ingredients on a professional basis.
How did it come about?
After college, I continued my studies in France as an exchange student. There I met Marc Brétillot, a food designer, and for the first time I realized that one can use edibles as a design medium. I went on to work with him and I immediately fell in love with the immediacy of food. So this is more or less how I ended up being a food designer.
You describe yourself as “someone who designs systems aiming to encourage a virtuous improvement in society and people's everyday life”. What does improvement stand for?
High quality food can be offered at any price range. Through quality food one can generate pleasure as well as a spontaneous interest towards education without limiting the reach to an elite public. By understanding and knowing their food, people can make sustainable choices that improve the quality of their lives. If the circumstances are gratifying, food can also satisfy another value: conviviality. As a designer, I like to think that our work is at times “political”. We are in the situation of promoting messages and better practices, so this is what I mean by improvement.
What is the role of food today?
Today more than ever, culinary revolution is the factor that identifies and pictures urban communities. There’s a constantly changing culinary offer in our neighborhoods. Local eating habits constantly evolve as an area’s population evolves. Take London with its multiethnic character: the grocers, the eateries that you find in each area tell you a lot about its inhabitants. Or try to think of “pasta al pomodoro”: spaghetti were invented in China and tomato comes from the Americas. The staple Italian dish is the sum of a series of culinary integrations. Well, something similar is happening to our cities. Nowadays, we are assisting a fervent revolution that will change the food landscape forever.
Your latest project was a trend forecasting event. Tell us about it.
Last month, I collaborated with The Future Laboratory, a trend forecasting agency. I created edible architectural shapes to pair with three different champagnes. My work consisted in creating 3 different dishes to represent the feeling of each one of the champagnes through taste and shape. The whole work was part of a trend forecasting seminar about the evolution of sparkling wines' global market for the year 2015.
What other projects have you worked on recently?
Another project that I did recently –and enjoyed particularly- was putting up a Fish Butchery at the Winter Project Gallery in London, which is an oxymoron because there’s no such thing as a Fish Butchery.
Back in 2010 you also held workshops in Italian schools.
I have no aspiration to be a teacher, but I think that preparing the next generations to face the future is crucial. It is thought that in 50 years from now, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. Food and water will rule our futures and children are more disengaged from nature than ever. I’m a designer or at the best case a communicator. I could never be a farmer. We need more educated professionals in the primary sector. In order to make this happen, we need to educate the next generations accordingly. Let them play with their food and inspire them by showing to them how nature works.
What do you have to say on the future of food design?
Well, what we do is very new, for now it reaches a limited audience. I look forward to the moment when intersecting food design and food industry in order to make better products – or generate better practices – will come.