'Food Meets Art' at the Guggenheim, Bilbao


Ahead of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 in Bilbao, the live stream of which you can watch onFine Dining Lovers from 8.45pm CEST on 19 June, the most culturally curious food lovers headed to the city’s Guggenheim Museum for a special warm-up in the form of a discussion around food and art from S.Pellegrino.

‘Food Meets Art,’ brought together two of the best chefs in the world, Alain Passard and Massimo Bottura, both famous for their love of art of course, together with Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos and architect/designer Giulio Cappellini, for a fascinating discussion chaired by curator Marta Arzak, who herself is part of a gastronomical dynasty (the Arzak restaurant in San Sebastian).

Those assembled pondered on the emotion of flavour and whether chefs can call themselves artists – “Chefs are not artists,” argued Bottura, perhaps controversially, who himself takes great inspiration from the likes of Ai Weiwei and Joseph Beuys, but “artisans obsessed with quality” – and exactly what it takes to be contemporary. “To be contemporary, you must experiment, experiment, experiment!” argued Cappellini, who drew a fundamental parallel between all creative pursuits, namely the shared wonder in the natural world, and spoke of how he tells the young people he meets on his frequent visits to universities that “there are millions of things to invent and do,” and not to feel like everything creative and worthwhile has already been done.

Alain Passard and Josean Alija

Passard spoke about how establishing the gardens that feed into the largely plant-based menu at his three-Michelin-star Paris restaurant L'Arp├Ęge had “saved his life” and brought him back to cooking when he was at a low ebb. Seeing, touching and hearing – Passard likes to tune into the sound of things cooking to judge when they’re ready – the beauty of nature very day had revived him he said. “I think we [chefs] have the most beautiful job in the world.”

That passion is something Bottura wants to put into every bite at his Osteria Francescana restaurant, where he looks to examine the traditions of the Emilia-Romagna region with a critical eye. “You have to break things to guarantee a new future,” he said, taking inspiration from Ai Weiwei. “Chefs make the invisible, visible ... you just need a little poetry.”

Vasconcelos is an artist who takes great inspiration from the kitchen, indeed many of her artworks feature kitchen objects: “The kitchen is the most fascinating room in the house,” she said, “because it has lot of objects I can use.” She is taking the crossover of food and art to quite literally another level with her latest project: a life size wedding cake made of ceramic, through which you can ascend to become traditional, but very real, wedding cake figurines!

With plenty to think about, the assembled guests were led, post discussion, to the atrium of the museum for a unique gastronomic experience: S.Pellegrino’s The Journey of Water project, led by Cappellini and first launched at this year's Milan Design Week for which three leading design houses have reinterpreted the famous S.Pellegrino bottle, was the inspiration for a series of small dishes from chef Josean Alija of the one-Michelin-starred Nerua restaurant at the Guggenheim, using some of the best local ingredients, including sardines and tear peas, and the region’s famous pil pil sauce, enjoyed alongside much discussion about how exactly food meets art.