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Join the Food Think Tank, Polish Underground Food Lab
Photo Jedrzej Stelmaszek

Join the Food Think Tank, Polish Underground Food Lab

What’s the process behind combining mealworm beetle flower with an endemic bean cheese? Just one question being asked by this underground food lab in Poland.

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Take a chef, a scientist, an artist, a farmer and… a mason. What brings them together? “Earth and water”. ‘This unobvious connection, dressed in lot of open-mindedness and historical inquisition, is the catalyst for a fan of multidisciplinary experiments in Southern Poland’s city of Wrocław.

At first glance Poland does not prefigure itself as a cradle of some gastronomic revolution. But for around two years it's hidden an underground food lab – the Food Think Tank. We've all heard of the food-centered works of Denmark’s floating Nordic Food Lab and Adria’s molecule-driven elBulli foundation. Despite sharing some similar principles, FTT like to take things much further by not just limiting itself to food.

Tomasz Hartman, who is the head chef at Szajnochy 11 restaurant in Wrocław, initiated the Tank. This people collective and foundation focuses on a wide scale understanding of education and development. What makes FTT unique as a food lab is that it binds a bunch of individuals, each differentiated by their fields and laboratories. United in the leitmotif with a new vision of the culinary arts, their mission is to see the culinart arts as a multidimensional phenomenon. What merges the seemingly unrelated disciplines is the 4 elements, gastronomy, but most of all – discourse.

FTT’s work underlines the perpetuous process of education in a form that resembles a paddle of bedlam. No boundaries. No scenario. No scripts. All driven by spontaneity. Yet, their scenario forms itself, the borderless efforts take a contour and scripts seem to write themselves. Their educational journey began with “4 Elements” in November of 2013. It was illusive and performative playing with forms, textures, tastes and aromas, forcing people to engage all the senses. “Meadow and Forest” and “Orchard and Fire” on the contrary, centered on the gastronomical terroir and have initiated the engagement of specialists from various disciplines to broaden the perspectives on the dining experience.

1 day, 2 places, 4 hours, 11 products. These numbers mark the finale of FTT’s current educational project. “Earth and Water” challenges the obviousness embedded in these two most elementary, yet so often forgotten foundations to our existence. This project strips the previous of what they lacked and takes off where they have finished. Initiated in November, “Earth and Water” once again hinges different area specialists. Who’s in the bunch? 11 Polish head chefs—each responsible for a different area, working together with farmers, culinary arts interns, professors and researchers from the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences faculty of Food Science and Molecular Gastronomy Student Society. Other researchers are the artists and craftsmen responsible for the arrangement of space, wood, ceramics, exhibitions, photography, engineering, visuals and music.

Milejowe Pole farm, sets the terroir boundaries for this project. It will also play a key role in its finale, hosting a pop-up underground restaurant that the FTT will soon start digging. The dinner will be live-streamed at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Wrocław, which will also end a month’s exhibition dedicated to the methodologies behind the work of FTT. What’s the process behind combining mealworm beetle flower with an endemic bean cheese? How to make a wafer with farm’s soil essence? What’s the relationship between kaolinite and century egg? Both dinner and exhibition will be a tacit presentation of the six-month efforts of research, planning and experiments, which have bound distant subjects over food. Not by coincidence it will take place on the 22nd of April 2015– The International Earth Day.

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