Arts & Culture

A Tasty Combination: Food and Fine Art

A coffee table book celebrates the connection between the culinary and visual arts

Chefs and artists share several important traits. The best consider balance and color in their work. Presentation is important, too. And good taste? That’s a given. In a recently released coffee-table book, The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida, celebrates these connections between visual and culinary arts.

For The Chef’s Canvas, museum directors invited North Florida chefs to reinterpret pieces of art from the museum’s collection as food. The chefs drew on everything from the historical themes of a piece to its colors or the emotions it evoked to inspire their main courses, desserts, and cocktails. The book pairs images of each artwork with the resulting dish, along with recipes and biographies of both artist and chef.

This summer, the museum will host events and classes related to the book: A series of “Talks & Tea” about pieces and dishes included in the book, plus classes on cake decorating and mixing summer cocktails led by the chefs.

Below, a few favorite art-and-dish pairings.

Artwork: Kitchen at Mount Vernon by Eastman Johnson, oil on panel, c. 1857.
Dish: Peach and cornmeal tarte tatin by Meredith Corey-Disch and Sarah Bogdanovitch of Community Loaves bakery in Jacksonville, Florida.

“This is a simple dish, but by using stone-ground cornmeal and fresh, seasonal fruit it is able to convey some of the main themes of Mount Vernon’s food history,” say the chefs.

Artwork: Agitation by Eugene Savage, oil on canvas on Masonite board with stretcher, 1953.
Dish: Collard greens in coconut milk on an elephant ear leaf by Araceli and Jaycel Adkins of Cely’s Filipino Food in Jacksonville, Florida.

“The subject matter and colors of Agitation reminded my mother, Araceli, of one of the first dishes she made when she arrived in the United States,” Jaycel says. “She takes a popular Southern ingredient, collard greens, and marries it to an ingredient she was familiar with from the Philippines—coconut milk.”

Artwork: Ponce de León in Florida by Thomas Moran, oil on canvas, 1877-1878.
Dish: Pan-seared flounder with citrus and datil pepper poached shrimp by Jeff Sanford of the Blind Rabbit in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

“This painting is a mythic depiction of the coming together of the Spanish and the Timucua Indian cultures,” Stanford says. “I saw beauty in the blending of cultures and my dish provides a blending of the flavors from both of these worlds.”

Artwork: The Tempest by Bob Thompson, oil on canvas, 1965.
Dish: Preserved lemon risotto with kale and ancho-dusted shrimp by Steven Gaynor of Biscottis in Jacksonville, Florida.

“When relating another artist’s image to a plate concept, the influences are of course on color and texture,” Gaynor says. “Less obvious are the feelings the image brings to the viewer, and that influence on taste.”

Artwork: Dancing Pears II: Fandango by Joseph Jeffers Dodge, oil on canvas, 1992.
Dish: Sour beer poached pears with black walnut double cream by Chason Spencer of Hoptinger in Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine, Florida.

“When I did my background research on the artist I found out he liked to focus on detail and simplicity, which is what I focus on when I create new recipes,” Spencer says. “I played around with different types of doughs to replicate the painting but found that spring roll wrappers had the best texture and visual appeal.”