We’ve been called many things: food designers, culinographers, culinary deviants, architectural food-smiths. I’m not even sure what all of them mean,” muses Sam Bompas from his perch on a metal walkway in Barbican’s secret garden Conservatory – one of the many places he and his business partner come for inspiration. Defining exactly what it is that these experiential food artists do is something that not even the culinary kooks themselves can answer, but, as Sam explains, “the most important thing is to do things with food that surprise, delight,
The story started in 2007 with a 12-course Victorian breakfast at Warwick Castle that featured their favourite food medium: jelly. Why jelly? Aside from the ability to manipulate its shape, colour and flavour, there’s an undeniable nostalgia attached to this childhood treat. “There’s a real joy of jelly; slap one on the table and everyone starts to share surprising jelly stories,” says Sam. “I just love hearing all about that.”
Their obsession with food started as schoolboys at Eton, when the then teenagers would sneak out to spend their pocket money at London restaurants. Since then, they’ve created the UK’s first edible gin-and-tonic walk-in fog, a crazy golf course made of cake on the roof of Selfridges, and fireworks that exploded into fruit-flavoured mists for the London Embankment’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“When you combine a performance, music, and a whole choreographed scene, a dining experience can be incredibly rich,” Harry Parr explains. It’s this richness that means their work blurs the lines between food and art. “If you ask most artists, they’re trying to provoke an emotional response. Now some paintings, the greatest paintings, do that well. But all food has that powerful effect. Food grabs you by the throat, makes you bow down on your knees, genuflect, and your brain actually lights up as you put something in your mouth,” says Sam.
Food euphoria was the aim when the duo created Fruit Fantasia – an interactive strawberry installation for M&S’s Marble Arch branch, where not only could you inhale a strawberry essence mist, the fruit talked, as Sam explains: “Food is now the most photographed subject in the world I think, apart from cats, and it means people use it like they once would have used fashion to define their identity. We wanted to transplant some of the language of fashion retail, the glamour and luxury of it, into the food aisle.”
So how does food and fashion fusion feed into their own sense of style? “The most highly coloured, patterned, geometric fruits are truly dazzling for the eye, and this translates to things that are tasty,” says Harry. “When we look at the way we dress and how we design our events, we go for an excess of colour, pattern and geometry that hopefully makes everything that
BOMPAS & PARR
TWIST OF FATE “We wanted to sell jellies across the land with only natural, fresh ingredients. There’s one production line in the UK that could do that and just as we were about to go into contract, they took an enormous order from M&S and weren’t able to work with us. This meant we focused much more on the artistic and creative side, so in many ways, without M&S, there would be no Bompas & Parr”
JELLY WARS “One of the things we found out very quickly about jelly is that at 11 o’clock, if you have jellies at a party or banquet, it doesn't matter how salubrious the company is, the jellies get thrown”
URBAN JUNGLE “In London, there are some incredible hidden places, and the Barbican ‘Secret Jungle’ Conservatory surely tops them all. We’ve had many fun memories here, including making a ziggurat [a terraced, pyramid-shaped tower] that people climbed up to retrieve a doughnut”
RUSSIAN TUMBLE “We like going to the Russian bathhouse. When you lead a very busy life, it’s important on your days off to do some activities, and there’s no better activity than being hit by strangers”
FUTURE FOOD “There are some fascinating techniques used in the fruit industry, including growing fruit under red and blue LEDs — they [the strawberries] think there are more strawberries in the vicinity so they grow much plumper and tastier”
“For our personal style, we look for guidance in the early scenes of Coming to America, so if we go for any look in particular it’s young, African princes out for
IN THE MIX
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