Food and art collide (+recipes)

By Claire McCall

Visit an Auckland restaurant next month to find out how cuisine and art come together, and where Peter Rabbit fits in.

Geoff Scott. Photo / Michael Craig
Geoff Scott. Photo / Michael Craig

The crossover between different creative disciplines is not new, but it has become rejuvenated of late. On the runway, fashion designers regularly cite architecture as inspiration; musicians such as Boh Runga are crafting jewellery, and now we have a new coupling: food matched with art.

When Geoff Scott of Vinnies restaurant in Herne Bay, Auckland, was introduced to artist Shane Hansen, they recognised an immediate link between their chosen fields. "I see such similarities," explains Hansen.

"My art is an amalgamation of shapes that form a single image. Geoff's dishes are a coming together of carefully chosen ingredients."

For nine years, Vinnies has invited guest artists to exhibit within the dramatic black-walled interiors of the restaurant, but this was one step beyond.

Scott and Hansen decided to develop a three-course menu for a one-off dinner, served with a side dish of limited-edition art.

This is no jamming together of disparate ideas.

A close collaboration has allowed the pair to traverse boundaries and to challenge them. After a couple of meetings to brainstorm, a curious key theme emerged. They don't wish to reveal the entire menu but the focus is on a fairy tale or two. In particular, they were inspired by the children's song Oma Rapeti and the classic Beatrix Potter book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

The two enjoy the fact that the main dish and the art produced especially for the event share a theme that emanates from a Maori and Pakeha background.

"From a culinary point of view, I like how a dish evolves according to cultural influences," says Scott.

Since Peter Rabbit was caught eating carrots in Mr Mcgregor's garden, this is a cue for Scott to experiment with ingredients that include wild (and perhaps mischievous) rabbit, autumnal chestnuts, and carrots cooked in chamomile tea. "Because that's what his mum administered to him before she put him to bed."

Peter Calder wrote about how Scott developed this dish in Living last month.

For Hansen, a figurative bunny print would be a departure from his core oeuvre, work that often features native birds and indigenous motifs.

"The rabbit was something that came out with the settlers," he points out. Still, he's happy to be able to travel a new road. "This dinner gives me the chance to be playful. Perhaps I'll do something in the 50s or 60s style of my Pania on the Reef series." He is also toying with the notion of incorporating the pencil-sketch style of his great grandfather's artworks.

So, when the 40 guests make themselves comfortable at Vinnies next month, they can look forward to a meal with a historical flavour, a taste of culture and a pinch of humour. Plus, there'll be a side helping of light theatre as Scott and Hansen explain the thought processes behind their art.

Seated at long bench tables, the emphasis will be on delicious discussion - a conversation that started between artists will hopefully continue among the guests. "It's been great with Shane because it has challenged the way we look at food," says Scott.

• Shane Hansen at Vinnies by Geoff Scott is on May 7. $125 per person includes welcoming canapes and aperitifs, a three-course fine-dining menu with matching wines - and art.

Call (09) 376 5597 to book.

The Menu

A selection of Vinnies canapes served on arrival

The Starter
Olive oil octopus, tarragon chantilly
Orange, fennel and ice-plant, black olive powder

The Main Course
Oma rapeti wild rabbit pie
Mr Mcgregor's cabbage, carrots & camomile tea

The Dessert
Aerated feijoa, saffron ice cream
Malted praline, gin and tonic, feijoa glass

• While not letting the rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, Geoff Scott has shared a selection of recipes (simplified for the home cook), that will be served on the night.

Recipes

Octopus Salad and Fresh Tarragon Creme
Feijoas with Saffron Ice Cream
Rabbit Pie

- Herald on Sunday

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