This is one-eighth of Andre Chiang’s How I See the World.
01: Park Life
Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe (“The Luncheon on the Grass”) is one of my favourite paintings by realism master Edouard Manet. It was considered a controversial painting in its time and was not appreciated then. It reminds me of my work as a chef.
What makes a classic? It is the innovation that we do today, and if our work gets continued, it will become a classic. People say that cuisine is some kind of instant art but there is also a legacy that chefs leave behind through the dishes they make. Also, the characters depicted in the painting seem to be enjoying life by bending rules to their own tastes. They are living life on their own terms – just as we create on our own terms.
REINTERPRETED – A Medley of Greens
The idyllic scene depicted has inspired me to create an avant-garde interpretation of a picnic: avocado butter with herbs of the day – such as kale, spinach, chervil, celery, parsley, chive, leek, mind, cucumber, cabbage and tatsoi – blended into a juice.
02: A MOMENT, PRESERVED
Vacuum is a cooking technique that I have been using for a decade and is applied in our daily cooking at the restaurant. Vacuum art – such as the work by New York artist Brad Troemel who vacuum-seals various objects into clear bags, and the Iris van Herpen fashion show at Paris Fashion Week in March 2014, where the models were “shrink-wrapped” – is thus intriguing as it applies the same technology in a different way.
It preserves something in time, almost like a three-dimensional picture. The artists have injected soul into a process that is in itself, artless.
REINTERPRETED – Lemon Skin, Rind and Pulp
Lemon skin, rind and pulp cured for two months in a vacuum with salt and sugar. The skin is pureed while the rind is made into a meringue. The pulp is transformed into a jelly “plastic skin”. The result: a dish that presents a deep sweetness laced with mild acidity and a savoury edge.
03: Perfect by Nature
As a symbol of life, the unique quality of everything that is shaped by nature, and the ever-changing seasons, the tree – here represented by the Paper Sculpture Of Trees by Lue Chanthorn – is something that intrigues me. The tree motif is all around the restaurant, from the olive tree at the main entrance to our wallpaper. This is a reflection of my fondness for all natural elements. The paper tree sculpture at the landing in particular reminds me that the seasons form a circle, going around and coming around.
Yet, when each season returns, it is never exactly the same either. Everything in nature is unique and we can’t force it to become what we want – I like that inherent power that calls for us to work around it.
REINTERPRETED – Swiss Chard, Vitelotte Potato, Sun-dried Scallop
Films of emerald-green swiss chard, baby-purple vitelotte potato and burntorange sun-dried scallop – the colours mimicking that of leaves on the trees as summer turns into autumn.
04: Purple Reign
Vibrant colours are spark-plugs for Andre Chiang, who is intrigued – and inspired – by powerful, colourful visuals.
REINTERPRETED: Berry, Hibiscus, Lavender
The Mediterranean is often associated with sunny hues such as orange, yellow and green. However, when we researched deeper, we discovered that Tyrian purple was favoured by Mediterranean noble courts in the past. Named after Tyre which sits on the Mediterranean coast south of Beirut, it is a colour derived from sea snails and was used by ancient Phoenicians – incidentally, Phoenicia means “land of purple” in Greek.
The dye was so highly prized that wearing the colour became a status symbol. Its colour is a reminder that there are many unknown facets to things – sometimes with symbolic history that has been forgotten – that we think we know well.
05: TREND SPOTTING
Polka dots are intriguing because the spots fill up the space without actually doing so. The repetition of the spots forms a pattern that is like a landscape that feels complete, even without peaks or anything dramatic dominating the scene. In a way it is also a reminder that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The simplicity of polka dots also lends well to interpretation: How it was applied in fashion in the ’60s is very different from how it is used today, such as in a quirky yet elegant silk pocket square from Canali. Similarly, the dot motif on plates today is very different from that in the past.
REINTERPRETED: Green Bitter Almond, Muscat Grape, Musk Melon
A visually driven dish of muscat-grape discs sitting on top of a smear of bitter almond cream and layered with musk melon “jelly” – my modernist take on a retro pattern.