Feed your imagination? I left hungry

What happens when you combine a Collection of THINKERS,
a World Renowned CHEF and a FOOD FUTUREOLOGIST?


The answer is general confusion if last night is anything to go by. Oh where to begin? As a food journalist and an ex-Central Saint Martins graduate the prospect of a food/art event in East London organised by MA students from my alma mater sounded like the sort of hip, urban, fusion event I should attend. And attend I did after an invite from one of them via twitter.

About 7ish I found the venue, and upon entering was given a booklet (more on this later) and told to experience the food, particular attention was drawn to the accompanying green stickers that I was to stick next to each course after I’d tried it – right. The hosts broke the cardinal rule of London event organising by not having a drink ready on arrival, there was one girl pouring out water, no one handing it round, and lots of cocktail glasses and wine glasses standing empty on the table. Confusion seemed very much in charge.

The food here is terrible, and the portions are too small. – Woody Allen

Wandering round this table to the kitchen I heard someone exclaim ‘everyone’s come at once!’ The kitchen obviously couldn’t cope, and that left me, Chris, Lizzie, Helen and Charlie waiting, for what seemed like an entire epoc.  When the food did issue forth from the kitchen there wasn’t really enough to go around.

And so to the menu, which was a prime piece of codswallop marinated in nonsense. I almost resent typing it out but here it is.

  1. Asparagus in textures, cooked and raw, gelee and granite with garnishes.
  2. Young carrots – crisply chopped, marinated whole
  3. English spring peas- on the half shell with liquid gel and flowers
  4. Sprouting broccoli, egg yolk spheres, and warm mayonnaise
  5. Jersey Royals prepared in many ways with seasonal garnishes
  6. Radishes- dug up from the earth, crispy soil
  7. Cauliflower- Couscous pickled and puree. Apple air
  8. Wild garlic with its flowers warm and cold. Vegetable ribbons
  9. Strawberries and rhubarb. Hazelnut powder and reduce milk
  10. Berry bundles

Crisply chopped? Prepared many ways? I tried one dish with slices of courgette on, was the number 8? There were no flowers on it, but there was a sphere of something and a pickled onion sort of thing – I didn’t know where to stick my sticker. I think number 2 had to be the worst. It was a tiny carrot, topped with tasteless foam, next to some frozen carrot pulp, the entire lot tasting of…cold wet carrot.

Eventually one chap then started making something to drink other than the water. A single shot of vodka was measured out slowly from a solitary bottle, added to a ladle of lychee juice and then divided into four glasses. I’m no a ligger or a lush, but the bare minimum when you invite someone to a food and drink ‘event’ is to provide plenty of those two very things. I was offered a berry bundle. It was a raspberry (from Tesco’s across the road according to the packet in the kitchen) wrapped in jelly, unsurprisingly it tasted like a raspberry.

Misspelt muddled manifesto.

And so to the accompanying booklet. As Chris said ‘I’ve read it three times and I still don’t understand it’. I had a read, I tried to get into it, I really did – look at the concentration. But my eyes kept sliding of meaningless words and pointless graphics.

Evocative Foods

Take this for example.

“We felt that ‘we’ as a whole have lost our capability to be enchanted by the world that surrounds us. To re-establish the once magical connection between our Selves [sic] and different interactions that compose our universe”

What on Earth does that mean? That makes no sense whatsoever. Over the page were more bonkers graphics, such as this.


Mind. Body. What if… mind and body were joined? Hands up who’s mind isn’t joined to their body?  But the best of all was the following on the ‘who are we’ page.

“A group of CSM’ers on their Masters, who’ve been given a project to do and attacked it with vigour. Creative, Inquisitive, Curious, Hopeful and sometimes blinded by Enthusiasm, we are students and proffesionals, [sic] who just like you…
Have ideas.”

So far I can forgive the random caps scattered throughout the book, but of all the words to misspell professional is very much not the one (The other howler was characteristics in the paragraph above). I went to art school so by default I can’t spell either, but if I was getting something printed I’d at least get it subbed.

If you can’t say anything nice…

Making anything is hard work, I know that, but these are MA students doing a masters for heaven’s sake. If they’d spent more time on the food and the organization and less time on the navel gazing arty nonsense it could have worked. As it was it was just really unclear what exactly we as an audience were supposed to be doing; and eating a raspberry does not make me re-establish a magical connection with the Universe. Art and food have a long and close relationship, from the Last Supper to Sarah Lucas’ two fried eggs and a kebab. This however had the feel of an event put together by a losing team in an early round of  the Apprentice.

What’s more they charged people for this event, and once you’ve asked folk to put their hand in their pocket and pay for something they expect to get it.  If this had been a free event (though it was to me) I wouldn’t have minded so much, I would have said ‘well done for trying’. But my friends had paid £30 to be there it took alot of beers and lovely Vietnamese food in Old Street afterwards to get rid of the bitter taste of disappointment in our mouths.

10 Responses to “Feed your imagination? I left hungry”

  1. 1 Lizzie June 5, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head there. Thank god you brought that lovely ham for us to munch on.

    (We ate Vietnamese! That sambucca really messes with your mind…)

  2. 2 Helen June 5, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Agreed! It was poorly executed to say the least. Worst of all though, it was so painfully disappointing after I’d been so excited all day. The ham was the highlight – amazing. Mmmmm….melty fat.

  3. 3 Andrew Webb June 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Yes, shame really. Ah well. Had a nice evening eventually, and glad you got to try some of my pet pig! Will bring home made bread next time…

  4. 4 goodshoeday June 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Sounds very disappointing -I’m almost glad that despite having bought a ticket work stuff meant I couldn’t get there. Surely there could have been so much they could have done to make it an interesting experience. And as for the spelling since when did spellcheck not work at art colleges?! sorry you all had to endure it – assume the sambucca helped erase some of the memory 😉

  5. 5 Evocative Foods June 8, 2009 at 2:07 am

    Thank you for coming and for the feedback above. The team learned a lot that evening. Some things were more in our control than others where you felt we fell short, but we appreciate the honest response and will incorporate it into our report.

  6. 6 Foodie June 8, 2009 at 9:46 am

    “If they’d spent more time on the food and the organization and less time on the navel gazing arty nonsense it could have worked.”

    I think this is where the split between people who enjoyed the night (myself included) and those who didn’t is apparent.

    While I have a few suggestions on how this could have been better (drinks ready at the start of the night with plenty to go around for one) I think a lot of your criticisms are simply stupid. These are arts students, not restaurateurs!

    As I understand it, this was a project that created a concept and took it to delivery in a few weeks. I went there expecting lots of conversation around food and a “proof of concept” and I liked what I saw: potential. Sounds like you and your friends went there expecting an all-you-can-eat buffet and spent the night huddled in a corner complaining to each other.

    The spelling mistakes, the wait for food etc, while disappointing, are far from unforgivable. They are creases to be ironed out and pale in comparison to the accomplishment of putting together the concept, the chef and the food researcher (who was wonderful to talk to) and delivering it. Good on them.

    If there is a follow up event, I’d definitely be up for it and that’s what I was hoping to find on google – instead I found this. So to the ‘evocativefoods’ commenter above, I just want to say don’t be disheartened; if you hold another event (and promise to banish the carrot dish from the menu) you can count on me and my gf being there.

  7. 7 Chris June 8, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Foodie: I’m glad you enjoyed the evening and understood the concept. Unfortunately I was one of those people – and I’m quite willing to believe we were the minority – who didn’t get it.

    I just have a couple of points to make, and I’ll quote your comments:

    “As I understand it, this was a project that created a concept and took it to delivery in a few weeks”

    Can you please explain to me what the concept was? This was something I was trying to get my head around. I just didn’t understand it at all.

    “Sounds like you and your friends went there expecting an all-you-can-eat buffet and spent the night huddled in a corner complaining to each other.”

    I’d paid £30 and was expecting to be fed and watered sufficiently, nothing more. Fighting through a crowd for the occasional plate of cold veg and a weak cocktail just wasn’t fun. The baffling art-speak just added to the general malaise.

    I can honestly say that all of the people in our group were genuinely excited at the start of the evening, and approached with open minds. We left hungry, thirsty, confused and £30 worse off. For us at least, it was a bit of a failure. But they all seemed like lovely people and I do wish them well in the future.

  8. 8 Foodie June 8, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Hey Chris,

    I don’t mean to be confrontational, but if the concept wasn’t what got you, why were you and your friends excited about the night?

    I may have chosen my words poorly in my previous post, but it just seemed that ‘a nice dinner’ was where your (and the reviewers) excitement came from – which is not what I thought the night was about. I thought it was about food as a vehicle for evoking emotions.

    As I understood it, the concept was simply another way of selecting food. Rather than based on ingredients, texture and taste alone – it was also based on the emotion the food would evoke.

    So instead of ordering food based on ‘I feel like some fatty lamb for dinner’ it’s more ‘i feel like something energising’.

    For me, this was a distillation of something I already do with food; if I want to hide from the world and be comforted, bring on the spag bol with a mountain of crusty garlic bread, whereas if I’m having a social dinner with people I don’t know, I need a grilled salmon with some greens so that my brain is not dedicated entirely to digestion. Perhaps this is an over simplification of their concept, but this is what I took it as being.

    I assumed that that was why the ingredients were all veg based, raw food’esque dishes and the cocktail was lychee based – to go with the advertised ‘Vibrant’ vibe.

    Don’t know if that helps or if I’m just beginning to sound like a fanboy.

    Anyway, while I can see why you were dissapointed – hell I’d be pissed too if I paid £30 on old st for dinner and went home hungry – I just think the night itself was about more.

  9. 9 Chris June 8, 2009 at 12:26 pm


    Don’t worry about being confrontational – us bloggers thrive on it (see above)!

    I think you’re probably right that we misunderstood the “point” of the evening from the get-go. What we were excited about (well, I speak for myself here but it’s probably true for most of the others) was the chance to try some of Nuno Mendes’ cooking for a great deal less than his full-whack Loft supper club (which is £100 a head) in the same venue. The guff from the Feed Your Imagination website was incomprehensible to me, but it did sound exciting, and I was hoping the secrets would be revealed on the night. Not so, unfortunately.

    Your explanation is brilliant by the way – and exactly the sort of thing I could have done with reading in that booklet! Or being told by a representative on the night. Or reading on their website. Or in fact any way other than leaving baffled and having to be told what it was about by a friendly foodie a week after the fact. Based on your explanation, I can’t say that even know I know what they were trying to achieve can I say they really succeeded. But then I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. And having paid £30 I think I’m entitled to one 🙂

  10. 10 Foodie June 8, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    “But then I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. And having paid £30 I think I’m entitled to one”


    If for nothing other than forcing me to think about why I, as a foodie, was so forgiving of the small servings…

    So I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree and if the CSM folks hold another event, in which I’m sure they’ll step up their game, I’ll come back on here and take it upon myself to help sway that opinion.

    I’d go as far as offering to pay for the ticket if you promise to arrive with a full belly 🙂


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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
June 2009
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