Art Flavor by Roberto Cortez
In addition to his thoughtfulness, creativity and inspiring works in the kitchen, Roberto is an extremely talented photographer as well. Six years in the making, Chef Roberto Cortez's first book is now on Kickstarter, titled Senses in Sucrose: The Art of Emotions in Sweet Form, described as the "first book of its kind (which uses) breathtaking desserts and photography to express the depth of human emotions."Below are insights and photos from Roberto, a preview of what is to come in a book that we are extremely excited to get our hands on.
Us chefs, we are a different breed of people. We voluntarily commit ourselves, body and soul, to the purpose of feeding people. Cooking is not glamorous: it yields uncommonly long hours and complete focus of attention to every movement within a kitchen’s walls. This work keeps people alive, and it brings friends and family together.
This task is repeated millions of times a day by people around the globe.
So now what?
Ten years ago I realized that there was more to what was happening when we eat and where we eat. I began to observe, study, and dissect every conscious and subconscious connection we experience while eating. I discovered a plethora of tiny elements existing that were so subtle and minute that they were almost unnoticeable. But they were there. The lighting of a room while eating can bring you more in touch with your food or push you further away, depending on its Kelvin temperature. The wrong lighting actually irritates you and brings you into a discontent state. Even if a dish is tasty, you subconsciously want to finish quickly and are left with a slightly bewildered feeling. Who would have imagined this could have such an effect? It’s known that we eat with our eyes first--this is a basic understanding of the importance of our visual sense. But what happens if we are blind? I did experiments with this in mind and noticed that we shift from a visual sense to a touch sense. Mostly the mouthfeel and mouth experiences enhance the flavor in either a pleasurable or unsatisfactory direction. Your mouth becomes your eyes.
These observations weren’t just about eating, but the details of cooking with emotions became prevalent. Certain cooking schools in India are taught by chef instructors with heavy spiritual awareness. They are aware, as am I, of the importance and connection of frequencies and vibrations. All the great scientists know this to be true, but how does this affect us? Well, our feelings and emotions carry a certain vibration, and this translates into everything we touch, including our food and cooking.
The Indian students are taught not to cook if they are feeling upset, mad, or frustrated. It will pass on to their cooking! I actually did experiments to see how this would translate in my cooking. I found it to be 100% true, once again solidifying my perspective that “everything matters.”
In 2009, I paired up with cutlery designer Katja Bremkamp, silversmiths Andreas Fabian and Elizabeth Callinicos, and furniture designer Tomas Alonso. We executed a successful series of dining installations at the London Design Festival and the V&A Museum in London. Our focus was to bring awareness and reveal the implications of specially designed eating tools and dining environments to everyone, bringing a new insight into eating for the diner. I cannot express enough how this molded my future as a chef. How could I go back to just making a wonderful dish or dinner for someone when there was so much more to see, feel, taste, and experience?
The concept we chose for our installations at the London Design Festival was desserts based on emotions. The funny part about this concept was that it actually manifested from the fact that there were neither a kitchen nor heating units for us to use. So that meant I had to come up with cold food that could be transported and kept cold for service. I had 6 months to focus and create three emotions-based concepts. I came up with one called Love Fragments, an emotion with emphasis on kindness and adoration; a second called Frozen Isolation, an emotion about feeling melancholy; and a third called Velvet Tenderness, the emotions that connect us to our family as a child and into our adulthood.
I studied colors, the psychology of colors, and its translation of emotions within us. I studied frequencies and their vibrational effects on our feelings and unconscious motives.
It started a fire within me, a fire fueled by creative prowess to discover another realm of eating, dining, and the expression thereof. I knew at that point I wanted to funnel all these emotions into a book. To be honest, the last thing I wanted to do was write a cookbook. For me, there is an overkill of cookbooks on the market in every genre. So a book via these sensory discoveries was the route for me.
The book is called Senses in Sucrose, a fitting title for my so-called thesis experiment. At one point I felt and truly believe that creativity is universal, meaning that if one accepts she can be creative in one avenue, then she can be creative at anything. I took this statement to heart and became a self-taught photographer. Not only could I create the dishes at hand but also take the photos in the manner that I felt truly expressed them from a visual standpoint.
I photographed people in scenarios that placed the reader in the mood or feelings of the actual emotion. I followed with an ingredient photo that combines the actual ingredients of the dish and the emotion, then the final dish and the special utensils and eating scenario necessary to complete the emotion. Brief text starts each chapter, and I become an open book about my views of some emotions, including the horrible ones that I have gone through. I have no walls for barriers. In a way this is a reflection of myself and what I hold dear and also what I wish to never feel again.
The book has taken 6 years to complete. It is my most expressive self. The world of emotions and food can and do exist. For everybody, everyday, at every moment.
- Roberto Cortez
Follow Roberto's work on his website robertocortez.com