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Event Thu Aug 25 2011

Not So Starving Artists: Interviews with the Chefs

Chef Koren Grieveson
Chef Koren Grieveson and her portrait by Tim Anderson
All photos and video by Andrew Huff

Last Thursday, Aug. 18, the Chicago Artist's Coalition hosted a fundraiser event called "Starving Artist" -- essentially a benefit for the CAC -- where four of Chicago's top chefs were paired with four of the city's top artists to collaborate on a "unique sensory experience," inspired by each other's work. One sixtyblue pastry chef Hillary Blanchard-Rikower was paired with Lauren Brescia, avec's Koren Grieveson was paired with Tim Anderson, Girl & The Goat's Stephanie Izard was paired with Richard Hull and Province's Randy Zwieban was paired with Judy Ledgerwood.

Each artist's work was displayed next to the respective chef's station, where guests could sample the appetizer-sized dish prepared for the evening. The artworks and "experiences" at each chef's restaurant were offered in a silent auction, while works by CAC members graced the walls. In addition to the chefs' dishes, desserts from Alliance Bakery were served in the Bolt Gallery in back, and drinks from Koval Distillery, Tito's Vodka, Haymarket Brewery and several wineries were pouring all night. The event showcased the the CAC's new Fulton Market space to its fullest extent, both as a gallery and studio space and as an event venue.

I spoke with the chefs about what they made and what they thought of the collaboration. Over in A/C, arts editor Kelly Reaves shares interviews with the artists.

Chef Stephanie Izard, The Girl & The Goat:

"When we first met, we didn't know each other at all, or know of each other's work very much. So we were like, 'Well, how are we going to do this?' So he actually came in for dinner, and the I went into his studio. And I think after he came in for dinner, he did the painting after that, because, I don't know, when I look at the painting, I think it looks like all the stuff he ate that night in the painting, which is awesome. Or maybe I'm just looking for it, I don't know -- I'll have to ask him when he get's here!"

"I think they did a really good job of pairing everybody -- at least they did in our case, it worked out really well. And now, you know, I'm aware of his work, which is exciting, so it's awesome."

"If you look at the painting, you can see different types of foods in it, so I started there. But I recently did a dinner in Madison to raise money for a charitable organization that's building gardens in Africa, so we did an African themed dinner, and I had done kitfo for it, which is an African beef tartare from Ethiopia. And looking at the painting, the colors and stuff in it just made me think of an African headpiece, you know? So I was like, well that makes tons of sense. So we have the beef tartare on the plate, then there's some summer melon with some spice and a bunch of different sauces -- and the painting has so many colors and so much going on that our plate does too."

African Kifta

Chef Hillary Blanchard-Rikower, one sixtyblue

"[Brescia] actually creates artwork inspired by pastries and desserts. So she creates these elaborate cakes and pastries made out of artist materials and things you'd find at the craft store, and she did a piece inspired on my food, and I did my food inspired by the way she makes her pieces. Later you'll see the resemblance, but she uses lots of really bright colors and really kind of garish forms -- things flowing and falling off each other. So it really made it fun for me because I could kind of throw the restraints out the window -- like I do at a restaurant, I have to be pretty spot on -- and I just had fun with it. We made smores on a stick ... There are a whole bunch of flavors, they're all different smores, and they have different toppings. I thought it was fun, just to throw all the restrictions out the window."

s'mores lollipops

"I hope that [Brescia] just took the food and was inspired to maybe make her pieces more like a lot of food you'd find in a restaurant or a bakery. You'll see her work and it's amazing. She was able to come work with me for a day in the kitchen, and I think actually cooking with actual food instead of plaster maybe inspired her a little bit to try new things with her art and maybe think of using ingredients in a way she hasn't used them before."

Chef Randy Zweiban, Province:

"Obviously, it was a really fun and interesting process to sort of bounce somebody else's vision of what they create and then think about something to create sort of based on what their art looks like. So it was kind of inspiring to be able to do that, and Jenny's so talented, and the fact that she creates geometric shapes really kind of made it easy to work with.

"I kind of took the idea of the shapes she formulated for her plate and took and made an albacore tuna dish that has a few different colors that go with the flavors, which are quince and a soy-mustard sauce and a little preserved lemon. The idea was to sort of take the pattern idea of what she did and riff off of that."

olive oil-poached albacore w/quince

"I saw the process of how she started her process, where she went with it, what the finished piece looks like -- I'm actually seeing it live for the first time today, but I some saw pictures of it -- and then through that process, I kind of came up with the dish that we were doing. And we got a chance to meet and chat and talk a little bit about her thoughts and her processes and the same for me, so that was a lot of fun."

Chef Koren Grieveson, avec:

"Tim is amazing, I hope I have him in my life the rest of my life," Grieveson said. "I thought his painting was better than any photo I've taken in a long time, and I'm very happy."

hamachi crudo

"I wracked my brain for a long time trying to figure out what I was going to do for tonight. His art is so precise but so not precise, and he's so meticulous. But he has a lot of his family and a lot of his father's influence in his paintings. I did fish because he uses a lot of that in his paintings -- I guess it's literal, but I just wanted to capture, you know, his spiciness and his mellowness and his excitement.

"Tonight I made a hamachi crudo with People's Farm musk melon, a little charred jalapeno, red onion, a little shaved mizuna and cilantro. Really simple and clean, flavors work well together -- but I think all those flavors also speak for themselves, as does the artist."

 

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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