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Eating at the Museum: When Food is A Work of Art

Eating at the Museum: When Food is A Work of Art

From S.Francisco to Singapore, Michelin-starred chefs work at museum restaurants, turning the meal you have after a visit into an authentic work of art.

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Your mouth may not start to water in front of Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell soup but how would it be if your visit to the museum were followed up by a fantastic gourmet experience on a par with the exhibition itself?

This is exactly what has been happening for some time now in various museums around the world where the concept of a quick snack during or after the visit has now become old hat. This is because the meal consumed at the museum receives the same care as an authentic work of art. In fact, it is a work of art.

Corey Lee at San Francisco Moma

It is no coincidence therefore that this task has been assigned to some great, or rather, very great chefs. In some cases, these have been one-off occasions in pure pop-up style, but other such experiences are here to stay, hopefully for a long time to come. At the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, chef Corey Lee has set out the menu as if he were curating an art exhibition.

The menu becomes the new art gallery and at the In Situ restaurant the collection is an extensive one featuring dishes by the world’s top chefs. Lee himself has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the world gleaning the secrets of his colleagues’ cuisine (he also runs the 3-Michelin-star restaurant Benu, not far from the museum) to present them in a menu that lines up a variety of signature dishes, from Massimo Bottura to Ferran Adrià.

Janice wong in Singapore

Alongside those chefs who have momentarily set aside their own creations to display their colleagues’ masterpieces, there are many celebrity chefs who have chosen to work in museum restaurants. In Singapore, dessert chef Janice Wong, who reigns supreme on the international scene of pastry-making (twice assigned the Asia’s Best Pastry Chef award), has been presenting her experimental creations at the restaurant of the National Museum since August 2016.

From her (edible!) walls richly adorned with lollypops and chocolate balls, to her recipe for sweet and savoury dim sum noodles not to mention her most popular desserts (mochi, Asian flavoured ice-creams, edible paints), presented in her own restaurant which opened just a few months ago, Janice has successfully taken over from multi-starred Chef Chan who previously occupied this space and has now moved on to another city location.

The Northern Europe Scene

Two museums and two great chefs representing Northern Europe: the first is Petter Nilsson, the darling of food critics who, after a long Parisian experience, has returned to his native Stockholm where he runs the kitchens of the Spritmuseum restaurant, the local spirit museum. The other protagonist is Joris Bijdendijk, chef of the RIJKS®, the Rijksmuseum restaurant, who received his first (and well deserved) Michelin star at the end of December. The two northern European chefs share the same destiny, that of cooking inside an exhibition space.

Ferran Adrià Like Salvador Dalì?

Further south in Bilbao, the world famous Guggenheim Museum hosts a restaurant that is creating a lot of buzz: the open kitchen of the Nerua can even be glimpsed from the futuristic hall. The main attraction of this restaurant is its chef, Josean Alija, multi-starred and acclaimed worldwide for his innovative cuisine.

Another Spanish chef, despite the fact that he has never worked in a museum restaurant, has been celebrated in an exhibition dedicated to his cuisine at the Dalì Museum of St Petersberg, Florida: late in 2016 the creative experience underlying dishes signed by Ferran Adrià became an exhibition theme and no end of comparisons were made between him and his fellow countryman Salvador Dalì.

Michelin Starred Chefs in NYC Museums

However, the highest number of “museum chefs” are to be found in the United States, New York in particular. The most renowned of these figures is Michael Anthony, the Gramercy Tavern chef, who now works at the Untitled restaurant inside the Whitney Museum, the exhibition space designed by Renzo Piano.

Also in the Big Apple, the MoMa hosts The Modern restaurant, a Michelin-starred venue where chef Abram Bissell prepares the food served in a dining room from where it is possible to admire works by Picasso and Matisse.

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