OMIOMI’s chromaphilia in blue


Mitch’s photowork often provides me a window on some unique, one-off collaborative events, especially in the food world, where energy and creativity continue to bubble along at a full boil. Case in point: Omiomi recently held a “dream food conceptual dinner series” in Oakland, California, in collaboration with Sophia Lorenzi’s Hoste Productions, for IDEO, the global design company, “with color as a guide for memory and emotion, experienced through a blind tasting and shared meal.” The lavish emphasis on color was a chromaphiliac’s dream. With the big, tradition-laden holiday meals coming up, it seems an appropriate time to share the work of people who think hard about food 365 days a year.

 photo 1U6A6149-X3.jpg

When I first saw the photos, they delivered a small shock of the new, yet there was a lot that was familiar too: the sensual emphasis on the forms and colors of plants, the simultaneous sense of abundance and control, the tension between nature and artifice.

Founded in 2016 by chef and interdisciplinary artist Chelsea Turowsky, OMIOMI is a concept dreamt up in response to a decade of work in the kitchen and a sea of creative influences, including the natural landscape, memory, dream, poetry and heritage.”

 photo 1U6A6266-X3.jpg

Bluets, Maggie Nelson’s meditation on loss and the color blue, was one source of inspiration for the meal. Before it was effortlessly squeezed out of a tube, before 1824, blue was worth its weight in gold, pounded and ground from lapis lazuli coming from a single source in Afghanistan. In gardens blue is still rare and prized, coming in the form of gentians and salvias, maybe agastaches and some clematis too, and its single-minded pursuit can turn sober, sensible people into obsessives. (I’m a recovering salvia-holic myself.)

 photo 1U6A6245-X2.jpg

On this day, blue would be drinkable.

 photo 1U6A6173-X2.jpg

And blue could be ingested.

 photo 1U6A6396-X2.jpg

And so I fell in love with a color — in this case, the color blue — as if falling under a spell, a spell I fought to stay under and get out from under, in turns.” Bluets, Maggie Nelson

 photo 1U6A6429-X3.jpg

This is what I’ve pieced together of the event through the photos and talking with Mitch. Sophia (in jeans) and Chelsea prepare the group from IDEO for the upcoming blind tasting, after which they will write down any memories the tastes evoked.

 photo 1U6A6427-X3.jpg

There was a lot of discussion about the size of the human olfactory bulb (not as developed as that of other mammals).

 photo 1U6A6178-X2.jpg

The tables are prepared for the blind tasting, with the blindfolds laid over the back of chairs and the butcher paper ready to record the dinner guests’ impressions and associations.

 photo 1U6A6189-X2.jpg

The mystery flavors are readied. (Possibly tahini?)

 photo 1U6A6117-X2.jpg

Finger limes from Australia (the “caviar” of citrus) and fermented black garlic from China were also among the four tastes included.

 photo 1U6A6455-X3.jpg

The blindfold technique is demonstrated, and the group from IDEO trustingly enters Chelsea’s world of culinary alchemy where taste can unearth buried memories.

 photo 1U6A6480-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A6522-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A6533-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A6539-X3.jpg

After the tasting, the group was asked to channel their inner Proust and record whatever memories the tastes evoked.

 photo 1U6A6632-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A6637-X3.jpg

If desired, these memories could then be shared with the group, and many did just that.

 photo 1U6A6143-X3.jpg

You know how we’ve been told since forever not to play with our food? Not this day. Whatever emotions were conjured up by the tastings were now to be reimagined through dabbling with the contents of the jewel-like bowls of fruits and vegetables.

 photo 1U6A6153-X3.jpg

Ingredients assembled and ready for the “memory plates.”

 photo 1U6A6136-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A6759-X3.jpg

And brought to the tables.

 photo 1U6A6738-X2.jpg

I believe the colored pyramids included an emotional map to color.

 photo 1U6A6821-X2.jpg

 photo 1U6A6962-X3.jpg

And then the guests attempted to transcribe their emotional response to the tastings through the shapes and colors of the fruits and vegetables.

 photo 1U6A7028-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A7048-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A7069-X3_1.jpg

 photo 1U6A7073-X3.jpg

The first course was the memory plates!

 photo 1U6A7233-X3.jpg

And then the rest of the meal was served.

 photo 1U6A7225-X3.jpg

Stunning watermelon radishes have a surprisingly spicy kick (seed available from Renee’s Garden)

 photo 1U6A7130-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A6656-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A7205-X3.jpg

And after all that emotional archaeology, what could be more familiar and reassuring than soup?

 photo 1U6A6775-X3.jpg

And there you have Omiomi’s culinary rhapsody in blue.

 photo 1U6A6222-X3.jpg

This entry was posted in artists, edibles, MB Maher, pop-up and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to OMIOMI’s chromaphilia in blue

  1. This looks so interesting, and I have found a lovely new word – chromatophiliac! Your photos are beautiful, with such interesting textures I love the creations people made. It is so difficult to isolate the senses; we have a smelling kit to help with wine-tasting and it is really hard to smell without seeing.

  2. Peter says:

    A magnificent event, a feast for all senses and Mitch’s stunning photographs (oops, images – I’m old) are a great match for your fabulous writing. Both share the excitement of the evening well.

  3. hb says:

    Photos are gorgeous. Philosophy of the event seems a bit precious, and sad for historically blue-collar Oakland, but no more so than the boomer’s nascent oenophilia of the 80’s, after the 60’s hippiedom.

    I read somewhere that humans have an innate avoidance of eating anything blue, some sort of DNA thing. Better in the garden than on the plate. Let’s not forget hydrangeas in acid soil, the bluest and biggest of them all. And Puyas! And ‘Blue Glow’! Now those are truly delicious.

  4. Denise says:

    @Ali, I was told that when tasted without the blindfold, some of the foods like the black garlic caused a visible distasteful reaction, but when tasted blindfolded no reaction was discerned — weird!
    @Thank you, Peter!
    @Hoov, lots of Oakland is still blue collar, including where this event was located. But I catch your meaning 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *