Chefs and artists all over the world bring their creative minds together to create something more than a simple dining experience – but rather an experience that joins the elements of taste, design, presentation, and more. Take a moment with chef Tae Hwan Ryu of restaurant Ryunique and ceramic artist Y-Kei as they share the process of their collaboration and how they highlight both the food and the dish it is presented on.
What sparked this creative collaboration?
Young Kyoung: It was fate! [Laughter] It was definitely fate. One of my friends owns a living and design multi-shop nearby, and introduced us.
Chef: I already really wanted to try working with a ceramic artist to make something completely new. After meeting, the creative process came quite naturally. If our personalities or ideas had clashed, it could have all gone terribly wrong…but we found ourselves working with a great synergy. That’s why it’s important to really work out each others’ inspirations and artistic wants before agreeing to work together. It can’t be forced, and definitely takes time to align the aims of the chef and the artist. I am always thinking…Does this artist’s personality match with my cuisine and with me? My food is quite progressive – it would be hard for me to work with a conservative artist.
What is this collaboration for?
Chef: The collaboration is aimed at creating vessels as an artistic stimulus for diners, synergized with the dishes. The first dish is a circular dish. You know when you visit a restaurant, and the white table cloth is slightly wrinkled? This dish is designed to emulate that table cloth effect. Seen from above, the dish really appears to look like a wrinkled cloth. We tried our hardest to give it that natural, slightly crinkled effect.
Young Kyoung: The second dish is rectangular in shape and was designed to ‘bring to life’ smaller, more intricate dishes and desserts. I wanted this dish to make sure that not even the smallest detail in the food was lost. It helps ensure a 3D volume effect for the cuisine.
Chef: I think of my food as being without limits. Young Kyoung is great at making sure that the ultimate vision is not lost and in helping encapsulate ‘Ryunique’.
How do the food and vessels work together?
Chef: The first dish gives the impression of the food almost merging with the tablecloth underneath. Customers are really intrigued when they realize the purpose of the dish. It really helps to create a synergized dining experience. They really like it.
Young Kyoung: I’ve alway been interested in the effects of cloth. I find working with cloth and the rippled effects of cloth to be very stress-relieving. I wanted to transfer this sense of almost relaxation into the dish, and thus into the dining experience.
Young Kyoung, as an artisan, what role do you play in this overall experience offered to diners?
Young Kyoung: The number of fine dining restaurants in Korea is rising, as is people’s awareness of the concept of fine dining and what that kind of experience entails. Their expectations are also growing. However, the number of restaurants going so far as to extend the focus to the dishes and the story behind the dishes is still low. I hope I’m offering something quite new to Korean diners, in helping expand their awareness of the detail that goes into fine dining. Not only delicious food, but also unique and meaningful presentation. I hope I’m adding some memorable detail to their experience of Ryunique.
Chef, how do you find artisans you wish to work with?
Chef: All of the artists I’ve worked with I’ve met naturally. I don’t think any artistic relationship can be forced. I don’t purposefully set out to find an artist in a specific area. I also don’t select artists based on reputation or name. More important than reputation is whether or not we can work well together, whether we can understand each other, and whether we can create something which works with my cuisine. I am really happy with this collaboration with Young Kyoung. [Laughs] Please write that she is crying next to me.