Many years ago I went to a dinner party given by a young Canadian aesthete who modelled himself on Oscar Wilde and had a smoking jacket to prove it.
Like Wilde, he had a quick and intelligent wit and the kind of delightfully insouciant lifestyle that enabled him to spend weeks preparing elaborate dinner parties, from guests and seating plan through to venue and theme.
Themed dinners were a big thing with Terrence (yes, Canadians really are called Terrence and Philippe) and at the one I attended he’d combined two great loves of cooking and architecture to construct – literally – the most memorable and stunning meal I’ve ever eaten.
Twenty-plus years on, architectural studio Jump has created a cookbook that, on the surface, is tailor-made for people like Terrence; that is, people who would agree with the statement that ‘eating and building have become the authentic expressions of our time – they feed our senses through shape, colour and texture – and both can be delicious examples of great design’, as Jump states in its introduction to Food by Design, published this month.
Established almost two years ago, Jump – founded by brand consultant Simon Jordan and architects Shaun Fernandes and Antonio Gardoni – has already garnered much press for such projects as its fashion boutique on Rome’s famed Via Condotti and a Bacardi bar in Ibiza, and it prides itself on ‘an approach that thinks beyond routinely applied solutions’, according to its book biog. It brought this approach to bear on the realisation of a pet project of Gardoni’s; namely, a book featuring the recipes and food experiences of architects and architectural thinkers that Gardoni had been collecting for a while.
And so we get an understated chocolate-brown and gold hardback stuffed full of ‘recipes’ from the likes of Will Alsop (Lobster Thermidor with Mango Salsa), Philippe Starck (Three Eggs – pictured below), Enzo Mari (Bread with Everything – pictured above), Droog (Eat your Bar) and Jump itself (Black and Gold Squid in Aspic). A few show little originality in creative thinking or visual representation but a good line in practicality and simplicity – Marks Barfield’s Salad NiÃ§oise and John Pawson’s Sea Bass Roasted with Lemon and Thyme spring to mind – while others are purely conceptual pieces – witness Makoto Sei Watanabe’s City on a Plate. Each is accompanied by an engaging Q&A and illustrated on a somewhat minimal fold-out spread with photography, drawing and so on, none of them particularly seductive.
By way of product testing I ran it past a group of four friends, among them a photographer and a chef; Paul Smith-wearing, Birkenstock-toting, gallery-going, food-loving – you know the sort – and the response was totally negative. The general feeling was that it was a con, a product with no value cunningly disguised by some overly clever design. All of which made me wonder who it’s aimed at – this isn’t a day-to-day recipe book from Jamie or Delia, nor is it a Posh and Becks celebrity cookbook (Starck and Alsop can most likely still walk down the street without being mobbed).
As a client gift from an agency to remind the client who they are and what they do it probably ranks up there with the best; as something to be found in a bookshop I suspect it’s a little too confused about whether it should be found under design or food to have Nigella quaking in her Manolo Blahniks.
And Terrence wouldn’t be fooled by a Christmas book for the well-heeled design fan who eats good food out and bad takeaways in – the kind of distance foodie he’d hate.
Food by Design is published by Booth Clibborn Editions in August, priced £24.95