There's a really interesting show on Choice TV here in New Zealand at the moment. Back of House follows Australian artist Jeff Martin as he visits 12 of the world's best restaurants.
He's not there for the food, he's there for the kitchen. Sketching in world famous restaurant kitchens around the world, Martin is on a mission to paint a canvas for each of them. And lucky for us, he has a documentary crew in tow.
I'm only two episodes in but I'm really enjoying this show. It's always interesting to see an artist work through his process, but rarely do we get an insight at such close and detailed quarters. The way he scrawls information into his notebooks is mesmerising; if you've ever tried to do it, you'll know the levels of terror, diffiulty and potential for disappointment involved. He works hard at his though, and has done for a very long time. Never doubt the ability of hard, persistant work to get good at stuff, and drawing is no exception. Sketching every day has to become part of your practice if you want it to become competant at drawing*.
The kitchens are great, they seem to not bothered by Martin's presense at all as he leans against walls, keeping still and quiet and out of the way. He appears to have a deep respect and understanding of how a professional kitchen operates. How they each have their unique dance. And how he can stay the flip out of trouble.
Tonight he finished the episode at Le Calandre in Italy. It was touching to see the chefs crowd around him at the end as they flipped through his notebook full of sketches. Their faces held expressions of amazement at what he'd captured. As if he'd done something magical, something they could never do. And then to hear Jeff's voice, in turn full of wonder at the 12 dessert degustation homage to childhood they made.
Finally, the dash to Le Calandre, where the highlight of the 12-course degustation menu was the playful dessert accompanied by illustrated cards depicting the tastes and sensory sensations of childhood."It's all a mystery until you realise that the cards relate to the dishes," says Martin. "First comes birth, a rich, decadent and comforting chocolate drink. Motherhood is shaped like a breast topped with a chocolate-covered nipple through which you get a burst of warm liqueur . . . and so on until bedtime, which is an Oral-B kid's toothbrush topped with piped strawberry mousse." On his jacket, chef Massimiliano Alajmo, in his mid-20s, sports the drawing of a chef he did as a child. The Age (via wine.com.au)
They may result in different formats, these creatives - one with marks on canvas, the other with food on platters - but both create these amazing experiences, and it's a really treat to watch.
- Jeff Martin (youtube.com channel)
- Jeff Martin (website)
- Jeff Martin Q&A (Food and Wine website)
- Back of House (Choice TV, Thursdays, 10pm)
- Le Calandre (Wikipedia)
*talking to myself with a very firm reminder of what the road to where I'd like to go looks like.