Words from Redazione Cook_inc.

Photo from Culinaria

Between the 29th and 30th of September, Trastevere – located on the west bank of the river Tiber in Rome – hosted the arena for an extraordinary fusion between the worlds of art and cooking that was Culinaria – il Gusto dell’Identità. Over these two days, the beautifully light-flooded WE GIL building – a remnant of fascist times – was filled with notable culinary talent and creatively thought-out exhibitions, thus proving how well both components could work together in creating an unprecedented event. Already featured on Culinaria’s promotional posters, Thomas Duval’s photography line “Bondage vegetale” was notably one of the most important parts of the exhibition. Furthermore, a melting chocolate sculpture done in collaboration between Francesca Pinzari and Walter Musco, Andrea Tortora and Pere Gifre’s masterpiece of dough enclosed in a structure and, bound into a unique book, the blend of food and fashion by Nicoletta Lanati were joined, among others, by the works of Giuseppe Guanci, Ria Lussi, Lorenzo Cicconi Massi and late Andrea Salvetti. Throughout it all, the artistic detail was designed to work together with the ideas and dishes of the respective partner chefs and made for ingenious pairings, enjoyable for the general public and positively eye-opening and inspiring for art and food lovers.

For one couple, however, the connection between artist and cook runs much deeper than of colleagues alone. Lukas and Manuel Mraz are brothers and put the Sohn (eng. son) in their father’s restaurant Mraz & Sohn, coincidentally located on the western bank of the river Danube in yet another beautiful European capital: Vienna, Austria. Together they took the stage towards the end of Day One and captivated the audience with each of their talents – one cooked, while the other one had prepared a painting – combined perfectly with a pinch of the famous Wiener Schmäh, the typical Viennese humour. Talking about how their father’s amazing cooking abilities balanced out the five times their mother might have cooked for them, how Vienna has so much amazingly fresh spring water that even the toilets are flushed with it and about how the imperial castle Schloss Schönbrunn is perfectly equipped with its own orangery, which provides Viennese kitchens with citrus fruits from all over the world – and Lukas’ plate. The star of the cooking show, however, was the enokitake mushrooms, which made an appearance on the plate not just once, not even twice, but in three different versions: first steamed as the quintessential noodles in the reinvented Roman “cacio e pepe” dish prepared on stage. Secondly, rehydrated and reduced to an intensely flavoured sauce and as a third trick dried and ground like black pepper and acting just like the spice in the final dish: “We usually do this step [adding the mushroom powder] in front of the customer and whenever they decline pepper, we just keep going”, Lukas recounts smiling mischievously. And indeed, while the mysterious dark specks taste decidedly peppery, they add the promised mushroom note too.

After the dish is prepared and handed out to the hungry and curious audience, the show continues with yet another highlight: Manuel’s painting – until then facing backwards and displaying the words “Moment’s Notice” – is turned around to reveal a portrait of his brother, which – to the soundtrack of the spectator’s gasps – Manuel promptly covers in white paint again. The reason: moments are fleeting, and one should always remember to notice – better yet, to really live – each minute life is presenting us with. This idea, taken from Manuel’s experience as a jazz player and his respect for legendary saxophonist John Coltrane and his “Moment’s Notice” song from 1957, was showcased beautifully, depicting Lukas’ cooking as the moment itself.

In the end, it is as if the whole event unwittingly stood under the mantra of noticing moments, for both, the aforementioned chocolate structure and the dough changed continuously and bigger shows, like Nicoletta Lanati’s presentation of “Food in Fashion” – combined with the Il Giglio boy’s oyster – and the photography works of Thomas Duval and Lorenzo Cicconi Massi, worked hard at immortalizing feelings on the pages of a book, a canvas or within the pixels of a picture, catching moments for the world to experience even after the event had finished.

Take a look at this video