Plats Du Jour

Uncategorized Apr 05, 2005 No Comments

How is it that chefs are running the world? In league with godless publicists, you can’t an open a magazine or newspaper without seeing the latest goings on of a chef around town, his new premises, restaurant, sandwich bar or celebrity girlfriend. All you have to do to get into The Sydney Magazine is to wear a white smock and be able to make spicy huevos for drop-in guests.

Architects seem to get an inordinate amount of coverage as well, having been elevated from the saps who design parking stations to the people who work out how to add extra showers into holiday houses. Architects probably deserve a slightly higher profile than chefs – after all, they know how to organise things and give orders – when Hitler killed himself in the bunker, it was Albert Speer who ran what was left of the Third Reich, not the sweaty oaf frying his sauerkraut.

Although chefs have really never been anything more than someone who knows how long to cook a chop, they are everywhere: overpaid cultural entertainers running the show. With a compliant, unquestioning media shoveling ‘lifestyle’ at every opportunity, just changing the décor in a restaurant is now worth a story in the Sydney Morning Herald. In the Sauce column of Saturday April 2nd a box out was devoted to the fact that Machiavelli (a Clarence Street restaurant) had swapped around its collection of photographic portraits:

“Much to the chagrin of the pro-property developer suits who frequent the Italian restaurant, [Lady Mayor Clover] Moore’s portrait went up last week in a prominent position in the dining room.”

The spin on the story was that Moore, who is allegedly not interested in land development (despite the rape of the land by Meriton Apartments) and is a very… er – handsome woman – is putting people of their high priced chow:

“[Owner Caterina] Tarchi and her mother Giovanna Toppi, are forever rearranging the photos to wind up their highly opinionated guests, Tarchi was happy the photo was a talking point.”

No mention of the photographer of the portrait made it into the story, but it must make the artist’s heart glad that to know not only is their work being used to deliberately cause people to feel nauseous, it’s now also a visual gag in the Herald. Of more interest at the end of the piece was a tidbit of information re the hanging of the Lady Mayor’s visage:

“Moore’s photo displaced that of the Federal [Arts &] Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, whose beaming visage now graces the much coveted central dining area.”

Two facing the window please…

The synergy between art and food is something we’ve discussed before. Someone decided it was great advertising opportunity for people to know that, for example, Bistro Moncur is just across the road from Eva Bruer Art Dealer, so once you’ve bought a nice painting, you can celebrate with a bottle of wine over a nice steak (specialty of the house) and so the Art & Food Guide was born.

It was a really crap idea, we thought, but then along came Eat Art in which celebrity chefs were asked to “interpret” works of art in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. Among the glitterati pot stirrers are Maggie Beer, Margaret Fulton, Gabriel Gaté, Geoff Jansz, Philip Johnson, Kylie Kwong, Geoff Lindsay, Luke Mangan, and Neil Perry. What, no Tetsuya?

Publsihed by those far thinking types at the NGA, The Weekend Australian Magazine ran an excerpt from the book in it’s TASTE pages and asked Geoff Lindsay to explain just how Bill Henson’s Untitled 1990/91 “inspired” his offering?

“Lindsay, of Melbourne’s Pearl Restaurant, argues that his food “has always sought inspiration from the art world”. He provided two recipes, one of which (the salad, e) is inspired by photographer Bill Henson’s portrait of a young girl, Untitled 1990/91.

“It’s a stunning image,” Lindsay says. He believes the photograph has a “quite obviously voluptuous, sexy facade, then this underpinning tension, [a] darkness which sends out a question about whether it is a romantic-looking shot or a sinister-looking shot”.

“Lindsay’s culinary response is, he says, “a very modern interpretation of a very classic combination of ingredients: olive, fetta cheese and watermelon.

“The underlying tension [of the photograph] is captured by the jelly,” he adds. “You stick a spoon into it and the whole thing collapses. There is a feeling with that girl that whoever it is with their hand on her shoulder will squeeze that hand and she will burst into tears.”

To give Lindsay his due, he does go on to express the view that maybe the whole thing is bullshit.

“It may sound absurd, he says, but “to each his own”. “There is a very strong push at the moment for food to be linked with science, with ‘molecular gastronomy’. I find that a little absurd.”

“There is a school of thought that suggests cooking is an art form … There is possibly also a school of thought that says this is all a bit of a wank,” he laughs


The Art Life

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