Now it’s time to plunge into the realm of your senses! Huh, that just sounded really cheesy. But for real, Ayako Suwa is the master of Food Creation! As such her sensual food combinations allow you to indulge in the most pleasurable tastes but above all – her experimental mixtures are true visual delights! While her husband Shinya Furui curates various exhibitions at his own POINT gallery in Ebisu (previously featured on PingMag), Ayako takes this opportunity to create the most delicate food to match the theme or aesthetics of the artworks exhibited. And that in a very, very skillful way! Although she started only three years ago PingMag was impressed by her creativity and therefor reveals the secrets of her unique food-art today.
Written by Verena
Ayako, let’s talk about your food magic! You told me that you’re coming from a graphic design background… What about your cooking experiences?
I was never professionally trained as a chef, if that’s what you mean. After graduating from university I didn’t want to work at a commercial agency. I was more into magazines and editorials…
Then, by coincidence I met someone from D&Department in Tokyo and joined them. They work is all about interiors. I liked their approach to work with old traditional Japanese items instead of always having to generate something ‘brand new’. That’s how I started with interiors and eventually wanted to take it to a new level.
Where do you draw your ideas for your food creation from?
When I was a kid I started out with these tiny kitchen items you can ‘pretend to cook’ with. Then I went on to make food out of soil and leaves. When I grew up I kept on doing that, but started to add watercolors and other stuff to enhance the colors. I collected all sorts of instruments to make it more perfect.
Please explain your special method of selecting your ingredients!
People usually have some kind of universal ideas about flavours. For example, if you mention the word ‘olive’ to someone, that person can instantly imagine the taste of an olive. Usually dishes are arranged with that in mind, meaning they go for rather normal combinations of ingredients. People have tasted basil, tomato and mozzarella before, they have probably seen these three ingredients together and can imagine the taste to be good. However, I am trying to do something new, something rather not imagined before.
I look for a surprising combination, but at the same time it has to taste good of course! So I try to arrange something from which you really can’t tell how it would possibly taste like unless you eat it.
How do you arrange your elements on the plates and tables then?
I don’t really think about it much, to be honest. It is all arranged rather intuitively and usually involves a lot of improvisation.
Food Creation’s New Year’s card: a shining marmelade glass delight.
What about the order of your food courses, is there some special arrangement?
Of course, it is very important! Like a menu with four courses, you need to consider how the taste flows from one to the other. It is also important to know the order which people enjoy the most. There must always be some amusing attractions along the way.
You exhibited your Food Creation last year at the POINT gallery called Stimulus and Relaxation. What was the exhibition and this title all about?
When you go to a restaurant you usually read the menu first, right? And if you feel tired that day, you will most likely go for ‘relaxing food’ but if you feel energetic, then you might go for something more ‘stimulating’. All these decisions arise just by reading the menu.
Therefore I did some research about how people get turned on by either ‘stimulating’ or ‘relaxing food’. For my exhibition I was looking for food that is relaxing and stimulating at the same time.
“For the “Skin” exhibition by Tomoco Tagawa I made two types of skin: dry skin and moist skin. For the dry one I took oily chips and cheese chips, depending on whether the dry skin peels off easily or not…”
“For the moisty skin, I made paté and pork pastries,” says Ayako. “This one here is representing blood, but actually it’s just wine.”
For the ‘After The Fog’ exhibition at POINT by Kaori Yuzawa, Ayako prepared lots of black foods…
…to match the fog. The smoke shown on this picture here is special fog that got extracted from burning pepper.
Now I’m eager to hear more about what kind of food you consider ‘relaxing’, and which one you would rather call ‘stimulating food’?
Ginger for example is both spicy and hot. But some ingredients actually have two sides: raddish for example tastes kind of hot and stimulating in the beginning, but the ‘after effect’ is, that it actually cools you down. The same works for pepper: it stimulates your senses with a strong taste, but relaxes your body in the end.
What ingredients do you use mostly?
I use vegetables a lot because they have such strong colours, you just couldn’t invent any better.
Arrangements for a reception party…
…strechted all over the house, including the bathroom.
A spontaneously blossoming pizza? No way! Ayako:”This piece was for an exhibition called Garden by Misato Ban. It was about a river delta with some island-like land left in the middle – an utopia. All the artists’ paintings were done on oval canvases in the shape of a delta. For the food part I used dough as a base shaped like a delta with herbs representing wild flowers.”
I went for the title: when you’re in the fog, you can’t see anything, of course. But you can imagine what there might be. The artist’s concept was that after the fog clears up you see something unexpected. I stuck to the fog itself, meaning I created smoke! Depending on the ingredients, food emits different flavours when burnt. One example could be, that I burnt pepper and then enclosed the smoke to extract the flavour of it. Sometimes I use basil for that, too.
How do you actually manage to enclose the smoke and then extract the flavour?
I use a special instrument resembling a kind of electric tobacco pipe I found over the internet. I’m not sure for what it was used for originally, maybe for smoking marihuana? To be more precise, I burn the spices in a special compartment and then stick the pipe in it to extract the smoke.
This was for an exhibition about hair, so Ayako created something that resembles black hair.
Food Creation’s logo with fluffy white cotton candy. Ayako: “Usually cotton candy is so sweet, that I add some spices to create a little surprise.”
I remember a strange and slightly irritating taste from a drink I had at the Monyomonyo exhibition, also at POINT gallery. I think it was an interesting variation of Gin Tonic with pepper in it…
Ah! I know what you are talking about! That was because of the theme of the exhibition: all objects were perceived as nice and sweet in the beginning, but there was some twist to it. The designs had something poisonous to them as well, so therefore I prepared some sweet food, like chocolate sticks, but ultimately added one poisonous element into. That is also how this pepper drink came about.
Finally, I heard that you have a next big project coming up. What can we expect?
A café chain will open soon in Osaka and in Tokyo – both serving my food. I’ll decide all ingredients and will provide a whole new menu every month. So please – be my guest!
Wow, congrats! I’m sure you will have all the details on your website soon. Thank you for giving us such tasteful insights!