These experimental food designers explore new ways of eating

The sobrassada sits on a black terrazzo slab set on a pedestal, a straight-sided block of red-ochre spiced sausage whose surface is an undulating landscape. On a table, resting on two piles of white pebbles, charcoal corn crackers are arranged in overlapping circles next to an array of whole, cored, sliced ​​heirloom tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. olive infused with black garlic. A menu taped to a corner of the low table looks like a museum poster and reads, in part: “crispy seaweed ribbons & labne dip; black corn crackers; miso onigiri with furikake. “

Guests at a September book launch party for Montalba Architects gather in one of the Hammer Museum’s mezzanines overlooking Westwood and circle the exhibit like hawks riding thermals. No one wants to disturb the rows of ceviche of fresh sorrel leaves or piles of honeycomb toffee in a long, terraced stand. But it’s the one thing on everyone’s mind: “Can we eat it?”

“It always takes a second. I’ll spread the word,” says Eléna Petrossian, founder of food design studio Ananas Ananas, based in Los Angeles and Ensenada de Baja California. “It’s almost like a social experiment.”

A spoon woman "seaweed" caviar on oyster mushrooms for a mushroom and light installation.

Veronica González spoons caviar “seaweed” over oyster mushrooms for a mushroom and light installation.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The first emboldened guest clings to the side of a concrete sculpture on the floor; shaped like a half cylinder, it has channels that contain labne mixed with chives. He grabs a chip of dried seaweed to grab one and then eats it. Others sink.

Petrossian and co-founder Verónica González have designed their food installations for store openings, brand collaborations, gallery shows, magazine parties and product launches. As art, design, fashion and food arrive maximum cultural crossoverPetrossian and Gonzalez say they are exploring new sensory experiences and new ways of eating.

This often means no plates or utensils for their edible sculptures, and sometimes no seats or tables. Instead, dolmades are served on sculpted wire fences or gravel benches, oysters on giant blocks of ice. Roasted carrots are strung from the roof; The halved baguettes are pointed and end in thick swirls of butter that resemble the waves of Japanese ukiyo-e paintings. Some of these are the kind of “jolie-laide assemblages” attributed to the likes of chef-artist Laila Gohar, who was recently profiled in the New Yorker and whose shop was featured in Dries Van Noten in Los Angeles last month.

Food is provided for the art installation.

Ananas Ananas food studio often eschews plates and utensils for edible sculptures.

(Maya Fuhr)

Petrossian says she and Gonzalez are inspired by creators like Dutch food artist Marije Vogelzang, who designed a “spa treatment” for the mouth in which participants go blindfolded and completely wrapped in a body hammock, with a hole cut for the face like a banana dress) through which food can be delivered. One listens to “an audio story of one’s own language spoken” through headphones, “advocating for people to pay more attention to their senses,” Vogelzang says in a video on his website.

“Architects, painters, sculptors, we’re trying to build food by taking inspiration from other artists who work in another medium,” says Petrossian.

“It took time to get to know our work and materiality,” says David Montalba, whose architecture firm’s projects include the Row in Los Angeles, the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, and eco-chalets in Switzerland. “We wanted to tell a story” through food, he explains.

Gonzalez, 29, is an industrial designer by training who grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, and Petrossian, 32, was born and raised in Glendale, both around a lot of food. Petrossian left her career in fashion production eight years ago and moved to Mexico City, where the two met through friends while living in Condesa.

Pictures next to sobrassada and charcoal corn biscuits and heirloom tomatoes in a museum-style display.

A sculpture of sobrasada with red endive, left, and charcoal black biscuits with heirloom tomatoes.

(Betty Hallock/Los Angeles Times)

“We decided to do an installation for some friends in my living room,” Petrossian says, “and based on their reactions, we thought, ‘Oh, is everyone so into this?’ We hung fruit from the fishing line. Some people went in with their mouths. Some people used napkins. Some stood on the sidelines watching. It was an interesting study to see how people discovered this way of eating.”

For most cooks, meal planning doesn’t start with a 3D rendering. But for the duo Ananas Ananas, who collaborate remotely – Petrossian now in Los Angeles, González in Ensenada since the fall – it’s part of the process of creating a menu.

“We never do the same thing twice,” says Petrossian. “We measure everything, we make sure everything goes well. “Everything is exactly to the measurements of the representation.”

“I always focus on the design of experiences, how objects and spaces around the human being behave,” says González, “how humans connect with form, texture, light. That’s what understand, which I still do in my art practice. So when people ask, ‘How did you end up in food?’ Well, it’s very connected. We’re thinking about materials and objects as ingredients.”

Sculptures covered with mushrooms.

Eléna Petrossian, from left, assistants Luis Echavarria and Miguel Flores, and Verónica González assembled a mushroom and light installation titled “Edible Mushroom Lamp.”

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

At a grand opening party in November, hosted by Cultured for the Future Perfect magazine, the gallery/residence located in the former Hollywood home of film producer Samuel Goldwyn, González chops mushrooms in the kitchen while Petrossian puts the last tweaks on a raised platform to the side. .in the pool. Built with the help of two assistants, it serves as the basis for three illuminated screens of different sizes covered entirely with trumpet and mushrooms.

“It’s kind of a paradox to have something that looks like it lives inside the house, but it’s actually outside, and not only can you interact with it,” Petrossian says, “you can also eat it.”

Laura Young, director of galleries at Future Perfect, tours the mansion (it’s the fourth Future Perfect house in LA, which moves every two years), a complex of galleries and living spaces. “We love to keep being nomads because we love to keep changing,” says Young. “It’s about creating a new canvas. Rest [for the party]why not make food art?”

Petrossian placed 4,000 straight pins in the three screens to hang the mushrooms. “It took me two days just to put the needles in. That’s all I did, and watch TV. I didn’t move from my couch,” she says. “My initial idea was to sew each mushroom. But they dry so quickly that you can’t do it too far in advance. We had to find a way to install the day of.”

“I love it,” says Young of Future Perfect. “I think conceptually it’s great. Part of me wishes they were sitting on the lamps we have. I love that they have that mythic presence. Wouldn’t it be crazy if these were up in the bedroom?”

As Petrossian attaches a mushroom slice to each skewer, Gonzalez follows with a brush of soy sauce and rice vinegar marinade, being careful not to stain the screens or the base of the table. “Mushrooms are so good on their own,” he says. “They just needed a salty vinegar kick.”

When it comes to crafting dishes, Petrossian says his Armenian background blends with Gonzalez’s Mexican influences. “When I think about trying something, I can already taste what it will be.”

Images next to a hanging food installation and a person reaching chopsticks into a volcano-like display

Edible sculptures of Ananas Ananas.

(Pineapples Pineapples)

“Middle Eastern flavors always come out,” says González.

“The saffron, the rose water, those flavors are very homey to me,” says Petrossian. “She’ll make the cilantro-jalapeño one.”

“And some garlic. It’s never there,” says González. “Everything has garlic.”

González smears the cashew cream directly onto one corner of the base of the table, giving it an organic oval shape with concave areas that he fills with jalapeño-cilantro-infused olive oil from a squeeze bottle; this is the sauce for the mushroom slices. The finishing touch is a spoonful of translucent green algae “caviar” placed in the divot of each yellow mushroom cap.

When the guests arrive, they start taking phone pictures of the mushroom lights, but hesitate to touch the food. They lean over the platform to get a closer look, and finally someone pulls a slice of mushroom from one of the displays and runs it through the cashew cream. The cilantro and jalapeño oil begins to seep around the outer edges of the sauce.

“So the abstract art of food is part of the thing. I think the fact that the immersion has no limits is inviting,” says Hiroshi Kaneko, an architect at Shamshiri Studio. “And honestly, I think that high is actually a great screen.”

Two artists stand next to mushroom lamps.

Eléna Petrossian and Verónica González met in Mexico City and founded the food design studio Ananas Ananas, now based in Los Angeles and Ensenada.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

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