Born in France and raised in Mexico, Fernando Laposse is an industrial designer whose involvement with food art came accidentally and expanded quickly. He cut his tooth in show cooking through sugar sculpting, a practice that he learned more for design rather than culinary purposes.
The response of the food world was immediate: the sugar tumblers that he presented during London’s Design Festival, where a success in terms of both mixology and craftsmanship.
Now preparing his upcoming performance at London’s experimental food festival, he made a quick pause to answer our questions.
How did you end up dealing with sugar?
I’m a product designer, not a chef. Initially I wanted to learn real glass blowing so I did a workshop in France at Bauche, organized by Vitra and sponsored by the New York Corning Museum of Glass. It turns out that glass is really hard to manipulate, you need lots of training and also it’s really expensive. So my move to sugar and food design came by accident: what I wanted was to replicate glass blowing in a domestic environment. During my research I came through some pictures of sugar art: sugar crystals actually behave just like sand in glass making. Still my methods are quite naïve…
Sugar chefs have an array of special equipment while I was literally just using a pipe, because I know that’s the way glass blowers work and this was the technique that I wanted to imitate. The result was nice but it’s really hard to control shapes, I have a big respect for sugar chefs…
Are there any that you particularly appreciate?
Jacquy Pfeiffer who also participated at V&A’s the Power of Making exhibition is a real artist of the kind. He made a massive piece, a tiger jumping out a bush. The technique was really mind blowing, but the theme was totally different from my style. The point is that I treat my projects as industrial design rather than culinary works.
On the same day I saw pictures of people really enjoying your sugar glasses, so taste must be relevant somehow…
Obviously they’re sweet so it’s like licking a lollypop. It was purpose to give them a function. This is when I started dealing with mixology and looking for very bitter things to go with it. So I purposely made very bitter alcoholic cocktails, which as the glass dissolves become sweeter. At the end you can eat them, smash them or even reuse them. Because you are melting them at such high temperatures that they get sanitized, you can have zero waist.
People seem to be quite curious about your performances.
I can’t say it's something new but the food movement is taking over a lot now. If you think about it the biggest cooking show stars like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay are from the UK. English want some sort of magic to engage with food, as they have a more limited food culture than other European countries. For example I was recently called to cook for television, and I think it’s because people who see how I make my sculptures, understand the process and they want to imitate it.
What about the performance you’re currently working on?
I recently became a member of London’s Experimental Food Society and they invited me to make my sugar glasses for their Spectacular Exhibition on the 17th November. It’s great environment because the people involved know about food but are aesthetically very aware as well.
Last month you where at London’s Design Festival. How was that?
I collaborated with Design Marketo for their Bar Alto concept, where they actually bring Milan’s Bar Basso to London for Design Week. They commissioned glasses from 10 designers, so I did an intervention with my sugar sculptures. It was the first time that I did so many glasses at the moment, without pre-making anything. I was producing about 15 glasses every 30 minutes. It was a really nice surprise seeing people helping me out spinning the molds, so interactive.
Industrial design apart, is seems like food is taking over your schedule. Do you like that?
Of course I do! Creatively it’s very immediate and refreshing. I’m very much into the DIY culture and food is probably the most DIY thing that you can do! So why not?