FOOD & STYLE

The World's Most Brilliant and Artistic Banquet
If you add imagination to the simple process of cooking, you can prepare a special and unique meal. 'Steinbeisser's Experimental Gastronomy’ shows you how it's all done.
Just how far can epicurism take us? A food festival in Amsterdam from Oct. 6 to 8, 2017, offered rare vegan menus and some provocative plating. Several forks were connected like chains. Tomato Petits Farcis clung to the walnut wood spoon that was nearly 50 centimeters long. There was some groundbreaking stuff. Welcome to Steinbeisser's Experimental Gastronomy.

"An ordinary 16-year-old girl dining
next to a wealthy octogenarian couple
like they're on some kind of an adventure -
that's what Steinbeisser wants to see."
If this event were only about serving delicious food, then it wouldn't be all that different from any other food festival. But Steinbeisser's catches the eyes with plates by artists. Artichoke and olives are served on a 3D plate that resembles puffy clouds. Tapas menu come with fragments of dishes placed on top of one another. It doesn't stop there. The real highlight is with the cutlery. Spoons have bumps like cactus spines and you have to be careful. There are also spoons inspired by shovels and small guns, a spoon that is also half sewing scissors, and a fork with a microscope at the top. You have to figure out how to hold things and which food to eat. It's the kind of unfamiliar experience that Steinbeisser's wants you to have.

© Eric Wolfinger for steinbeisser.org

Jouw Wijnsma and Martin Kullik co-founded Steinbeisser in 2009. It's a creative group dedicated to all things food. And they've been running the Experimental Gastronomy since 2012. It is held once a year in Amsterdam and twice more annually in other major cities with well-developed culinary tradition. This project is famous for collaboration between chefs and artists, and they must adhere to certain rules. All food and beverages must be vegetarian or vegan, and they must use local or biodynamic ingredients. Artists design plates and cutlery, and then chefs try to figure out what kind of food to make.

© Fabian Haefeli for steinbeisser.org

There are also clear guidelines on selecting artists. Basically, their design has to show people 'new ways to enjoy food' and also has to help expand culinary exploration. Plates and cutlery that follow the conventional rules will be limited. Meals provided through the chef-artist collaborations will bring you the perfect combination of design, gastronomy and nature. In just five years, the festival has won wide acclaim. <The New Yorker> has called it 'An Experimental Feast' and &lt;The Independent&gt; dubbed it 'Food for Thought.' 

© Tina Sturzenegger for steinbeisser.org

Steinbeisser launched an online store Jouw in 2017, and it gives a platform that connects the artists with the public even after the festival. You can find and purchase works by more than 25 artists from the festivals over the past five years. So how does Steinbeisser  prepare for the festival and what does it ultimately try to accomplish? Co-founder Kullik gave his answers.

© Caroline Prange for steinbeisser.org

Q. It was difficult to find the meaning of 'Steinbeisser' after several searches. Just what does it mean?
A. It's the name of the monster from a novel I read as a kid, called <Never Ending Story>.
Steinbeisser eats rocks, and it's the symbol of the unique way we connect gastronomy with art. We wanted to liken the act of eating unfamiliar food to biting off something as hard and strange as a rock.
Q. What is exactly Steinbeisser and what does it try to accomplish?
A. My partner and I are co-CEOs, and we select guest chefs and artists to design plates for each food event. We pick about three chefs per event, including a Michelin-caliber chef.

© Caroline Prange for steinbeisser.org

Q. Why do you insist on organic, vegan and biodynamic food?
A. I've been a vegetarian and vegan since 17, and I've always had to order separately at restaurants. And whenever I placed a special order, it made me feel like I was eating in the comfort of my own place. We hope that people who visit our festivals will feel the same level of comfort.
Q. How is the Steinbeisser's Experimental Gastronomy?
A. We mostly rely on our instincts and gut feelings. We study restaurants we've previously visited and taste the dishes that we've wanted to before selecting our chefs. Some have turned us down because we forced them to cook vegan meals. Once the chefs are picked, then we can start specific curating for the event. We give our chefs photos of works by local artists or even send them prototypes. Often, chefs and artists exchange ideas on the menu and design.

Cutlery by Joo-hyung Park

Q. There are many other food festivals around the world. What separates Steinbeisser's from the rest?
A. I'd like to say that ours offers creative methods to the act of enjoying food. A formal meal consists of six to eight tasting courses. And guests usually can't figure out how to eat those different dishes. You'd have to find your own way, like you were solving a math problem, and that's what makes Steinbeisser special. We have 50 to 60 guests per meal, and prices vary depending on the host city.
Q. Do you have specific criteria to select artists?
A. We tend to focus on those who use natural materials or who do recycling or upcycling. We prefer artists who make sustainable pieces, those with unconventional design and people who can surprise or even annoy our guests because they don't know how to start eating.

Teapots by Tono Perez

Q. You've organized so many dinners over the past five years. Is there any particular piece of work or dinner that stands out?
A. I remember cutlery by the artist Nils Hint from two years ago. He connected pilers and wrenches, among other tools, with forks, spoons and knives. It was so huge and heavy that you'd have to leave all the other cutlery on the floor to use it. Guests were upset that it was such an efficient piece, but they eventually got used to it and they later became more chatty and friendly with one another. It was satisfying because we gave people 'connection bits.'

Q. We heard Korean artists have also been featured.
A. Park Joo-hyung, Kim Hee-joo and Kong Sae-rom were the three Koreans, and they were all jewelry artists. Their plates drew positive response. Park's wooden cutlery, introduced during the celebration of our fifth anniversary, was especially popular among guests.

Cutlery by JMarie Eklund

© Caroline Prange for steinbeisser.org

Q. What type of people visit Steinbeisser's Experimental Gastronomy?
A. We attract all sorts of people from all generations. I think this 16-year-old girl really represents our guest. She's an ordinary girl with an interest in chefs and fine dining. And she saves up 50 euros a year to come to our festival. She says she may not have a lot of money but she loves vegan food. And the 16-year-old girl can enjoy her meal alongside a wealthy octogenarian couple, like they were on some kind of adventure. And I think that's what we're striving for. We're hoping to build our own Foodery Centre and Food&Farming.
December 2018 Editor:Jung Jaewook
Writer:Park Nari
Cooperation: Steinbeisser

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  • Editor: Jung Jaewook
    Writer: Park Nari
  • Cooperation: Steinbeisser
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