Master chef-cum-artist Jasper Udink ten Cate on The Art of Creative Plating

The creative gastronomist talks about creating conceptual food experiences that connect with people.

Jasper Udink ten Cate is a master chef, food designer and artist, passionate about creating immersive food experiences. Through his studio Creative Chef, he conjures up culinary concepts and events that range from edible exhibitions to experimental dining and public activations. Following his well-received exhibition at Dutch Design Week 2015, we contacted the charismatic gastronomist to enquire about his interesting work in the booming discipline of food design.

As founder and headman at Creative Chef, Udink ten Cate dreams of the day that a chef is recognised as an artist who specialises in drawing connections between art, design and food. He imagines a large-scale, edible exhibition at MOMA museum in New York as the realisation of his dream. The values of co-creation and collaboration drive the team at Creative Chef as the headman himself believes in combining the varied talents of specialists to yield a quality result:

“I have so many ideas but I’m not good and capable enough to do some things, which are beyond cooking. I’m quite okay with painting, and sculpturing, but I do not have the skills to take a good photo or do a technical drawing, so that’s why I work together with lots of people.”

On his recent project The Art of Creative Plating, the chef paired up with Dutch industrial designer Suzan Becking to create a forty-piece set of china where each piece signifies a form of food. The exhibition shines a light on plating as an art form and acts as an instrument for experimenting with food presentation. Udink ten Cate explains that the idea materialised after making clay models with his son:

“After a while I started using the clay models as an example of my dishes for the cooks who work for me and I saw that they enjoyed playing around with the forms. That convinced me that I had a good product.”

Udink ten Cate describes plating as a “fast form of sculpturing,” explaining that “in the heat of the moment you have to make it work.” He sees the dining table as a pedestal and the plate as a canvas, but emphasises that plating is not only about aesthetics – taste is a key influence over how the food is sculptured on a plate.

Storytelling makes up a big part of Udink ten Cate’s work, as he is most interested in creating food experiences that connect with people “by translating a story or memory on a plate, on a table or through taste.” Customised food concepts are an opportunity to get more personal. This could mean serving food from someone’s hometown or having someone’s favourite home-cooked meal made by the family member who originally prepared it.

In summary, the Creative Chef says that what he does is “about connecting with the dreams and memories of the person you cook for and being respectful in your approach.”

Jasper Udink ten Cate’s cookbook is soon to be released in February 2016.