Emilie Baltz is not a chef and she’s not a foodie. But in a wildly entrepreneurial way she has shown people how to look at food much more thoughtfully. Specifically, how we consume it and what that says about us. Rather than you are what you eat, it's a case of you are how you eat.
“I've been on a path to help create tools and experiences for understanding and feeling how food, design and art can work together to create better, healthier, more imaginative and delightful content for the world," Baltz says.
She focusses on how the environment – lighting and sound, for instance – influences one’s experience of taste. And she sets out to create the environment, thereby designing the taste. It’s really about feeding design.
“At any scale, at any level, you have tools and materials in front of you to create a wonderful experience, and that’s how we are fed," she says.
When one eats with intention, that is when one is eating.
Traces was an edible performance art piece she curated in downtown Manhattan where the chefs walked on the table, laying down the food as if painting a canvas. They did this to the sounds of Brooklyn-based artists who provided the “soundscape and set”. Breaking, tearing, licking, smashing and catching: each of the courses corresponded with a physical gesture. For her, the act of eating sets up a relationship between person and product.
Baltz grew up between the US and France with a parent from each country. Now based in New York City, she lectures at Pratt Institute (where she founded the Food Design Studio) and gets involved in commissions such as creating the drinks for the bar at the Museum of Sex (cocktails that had to be licked off ribbed plates rather than sipped from glasses), and orchestrating a Lickestra that featured four people creating different sounds as they slurped their ice cream cones.
She’s also produced two books: L.O.V.E FOODBOOK, an art cookbook that she designed, curated and photographed “as a way of creating contemporary definitions of aphrodisia – this sort of material of desire that’s so enigmatic to all of us”; and Junk Foodie, which is chockablock with recipes for gorgeous patisserie-style desserts made from American vending machine snacks such as Twinkies and potato chips (the Napoleon French pastry) or peanut butter cups and fruit roll-ups (Truffled Berry Praline Purses).
“It is about creativity; it is about self-expression. I think that is what food is."