When Food Meets Art: What to expect at a food-art pairing dinner at Canggu’s Living Food Lab

Windee Winata’s ONE series is currently on display at the Living Food Lab in Berawa. Photo: Living Food Lab
Windee Winata’s ONE series is currently on display at the Living Food Lab in Berawa. Photo: Living Food Lab

File this one under “quintessentially Canggu” happenings: this weekend, a vegan chef will be taking an Indonesian artist’s paintings and interpreting them into edible works of art during a five-course fine dining experience in the hip Bali hood.

The recently opened Living Food Lab in Berawa will host a small dinner event this Saturday night, during which five of Windee Winata’s paintings from his photography series “ONE” will be brought to life through food.

While we’ve all had our fair share of food pairings, those usually revolve around alcohol, like wine being paired with different meats or cheeses. Food and art though? How? Why?

Intrigued by the novel concept, Coconuts Bali caught up with Living Food Lab owner and vegan chef, Pauliina Salmenhaara to paint a clearer picture of what to expect for this weekend’s experimental dinner.

Could you explain in a little more depth how you plan to get creative with your edible toolbox?

Our main course will involve guests getting to create their own artwork, using sauces, sprinkles and sushi.

How about food coloring, is that a tool you’ll use in your pairing? 

Any food coloring we use is made from plants, fruits or vegetables. Nothing comes to us ready-made, and just like we don’t use any toxic additives or preservatives, we also stay clear of artificial food dyes. We extract colorful juices through our cold press juicer and we also dehydrate various plants to get vibrant powders.

Tell us how you came up with the idea and why you chose the art of Windee Winata for your pairing.

First I saw Windee’s artwork through his webpages, and fell in love. Next, Windee brought his artwork over to our gallery for us to see it in real life. They were stunning! Immediately, I started seeing and tasting foods as I looked at the paintings, and I started putting together a menu.

This painting feels like a white cheese, let’s make it together with some black chia crackers and add some black condiments. The red one, it must be grilled red bell pepper, let’s make it dish #4.

Windee Winata painting
One of Winata’s paintings. Image courtesy of Windee Winata.
Windee Winata
Winata’s works are currently on display at the Living Food Lab in Berawa.

Could you explain more about how how exactly this sort of food-art pairing works?

With the initial round of recipe testing, we found some ingredients worked together, some didn’t. We started to gather different components of the recipes that worked by themselves, and then started pairing them with other flavors, colors, and textures.

Some dishes I immediately felt had to be done on a certain plate, and we actually worked backwards, from the plate to the ingredients, thinking of which food were that color.

The process is still on-going and will come together closer to the event. There’s something about that last minute pressure that squeezes out the best ideas.

Have you done a food-art pairing before?

I did my first food-art pairing some years ago in Singapore, and really loved the creative process of creating food inspired by artwork. My favorite one was preparing a high tea for a very special tea set given by Singapore President Tony Tan Keng to Queen Elizabeth II on her 90th birthday.

When we set up the art gallery here in Canggu, it was just a natural step to showcase Windee’s art on a deeper level.

With Windee talking about his art and going deeper into the meaningful process behind the creation, it brings up different topics of conversation that we can open to all our guests, as we ponder about life, art, philosophy, food and more. It also offers our chefs the chance to talk about how they experience art and what personal and technical processes they went through.

Salmenhaara’s responses have been edited for clarity.

Reservations for the Food-Art pairing dinner can be made via email to info@livingfoodlab.com with “Food – Art” as the subject line. Bookings will be open until Friday, May 25.

The dinner starts at 7pm and tickets cost IDR625k (US$44) per pax. Alcohol is not included, but please inquire with Living Food Lab if you wish to bring your own alcoholic beverages.

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