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Phaidon's new cookbook The Kitchen Studio introduces favourite dishes and unusual techniques from artists Olafur Eliasson, Laura Wilson, Kehinde Wiley, and many others.

Are Contemporary Artists Any Good in the Kitchen?

Laura Wilson's The Humbova in The Artist's Studio (2021), page 267. Courtesy the artist.

A cookbook featuring recipes, rants, illustrations, and photographs by 70 of the world's leading artists is now available for pre-order.

Published by Phaidon, The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists is a peculiar kind of cookbook. Page spreads by each artist are as much self-portraits as they are recipes, taking on entirely different forms that reflect their distinct attitudes and sensibilities.

Studio Olafur Eliasson, for instance, shares a method for creating brightly coloured pigments they serve on freshly baked sourdough with vegan butter. Surprisingly vivid hues are made by dehydrating and pulverising food scraps from vegetables such as red cabbage, pumpkin, and kale.

Studio Olafur Eliasson, Food Pigments on Studio Sourdough in The Artist's Studio (2021), page 87. Photo: Studio Olafur Eliasson.

Studio Olafur Eliasson, Food Pigments on Studio Sourdough in The Artist's Studio (2021), page 87. Photo: Studio Olafur Eliasson.

Bernar Venet, on the other hand, proffers a gruesome recipe for Lamb Brains and Venere Rice with Squid Ink Crêpes Dentelles. The French sculptor writes that his 'aesthetic inclination is towards the elegance of black.'

Cooking and art are two of Phaidon's most popular topics, and they said it was inevitable the two subjects would meet.

'We realised that there are procedural affinities in the way artists make their art and prepare their food,' said Michele Robecchi, a writer and commissioning editor at Phaidon Press. 'Both practices required a great deal of conceptual and manual work in the safety of a familiar and creative environment.'

Some recipes are political, such as Cooking Sections' 'Recipe to Remove Farmed Salmon From an Art Institution'.

Others are more personal, like Laura Wilson's Humbova, a recipe her Auntie Pauline was given by someone at the hairdresser's when Wilson was growing up in Northern Ireland. Creating this asphalt-grey, peppermint-flavoured, meringue masterpiece requires the use of personal protective equipment while smashing zebra-striped boiled lollies called humbugs. Images of the dessert are presented with stills from her video Deepening (2020), which show earthmovers scraping away grey clay.

There's also Confit Lamb Shoulder by Adel Abdessemed, Senagalese Thieboudienne (fish and rice) by Kehinde Wiley, and a totally preposterous 'patriotic JELL-O gelatin salad' filled with toy soldiers by Martha Rosler.

Kehinde Wiley's Thieboudienne in The Kitchen Studio (page 263). Photo: Evan Sung.

Kehinde Wiley's Thieboudienne in The Kitchen Studio (page 263). Photo: Evan Sung.

The range of recipes and how they're presented is dizzying.

In his introduction, Massimo Bottura, chef patron of the three-Michelin-star restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, writes that 'at first everything about this book is alarming. And then I got the flavour of it: create.'

Robecchi said working on the book changed his attitude to food preparation in a big way.

'There is an amateur element involved (and I mean this in the best possible way) that establishes a degree of empathy between authors and readers otherwise absent in most cook books.'

'My hope is that The Kitchen Studio will inspire the people who read it to rethink their approach to food and draw inspirations from their own personal history and surroundings and create their own recipes,' he said. —[O]

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