Wednesday, 24 October 2012

culture kitchen at the london review of books

culture kitchen
you will forgive me for beginning at the end of lunch at sunday’s ‘culture kitchen’. it is because the brownie with a thick stroke of pumpkin and white chocolate ganache and a crest of corn flakes toasted in butter was one of the cleverest flavour combinations i have eaten in a while. the pumpkin smoothes the aching sweetness of white chocolate and the cornflake crunch balances the soft textures. 

terry glover
‘culture kitchen’ is a new series of talks marrying terry glover’s culinary creativity in conversation with creative icons. the first one was held on a sunday with the kind of angry temper that unleashes a deluge from the skies. it was a sunday that officially marked the end of summer too. terry’s menu for the day straddled the seasons with an ode to summer but bringing in just enough warmth to celebrate autumn. 

i have to confess i had never heard of alex noble until i came along to ‘culture kitchen’ so when giulia invited me to go along i agreed mostly because i had wanted to catch up with her after her wedding and because the london review of books cake shop is one of my favourite sunday spots. it has been a constant for me since my university days, so much so that i wrote most of my dissertation here. in fact that is how i came to be friends with terry glover. i am glad i went though because the conversation between alex and sharmaine was very interesting and eating lunch with a table of interesting strangers was lovely too. 

we were received with flutes of bellini-esque cocktails - a mixture of prosseco, orange and tonka bean lengthened with mariage freres opium tea. alex noble is tall with a spare frame. he was perched on a stool next to two mannequins displaying his costume designs and is decidedly down to earth erring on the side of shyness. the first segment of conversation is preceded by starters. in terry's words they are vitamin boosters. there is an umami vegetable broth with tofu dumplings seasoned with almond miso accompanied by discs of roasted beets, a bundle of pickled radishes and some diced pickled beetroots. 

sharmaine and alex have been friends since they were children, and that close familiarity allows her to frame the conversation in a way that not only builds a picture of alex’s career but also to weave in current issues in education and careers. many graduates and early to mid career professionals will find support in his journey which was far from linear. i found myself nodding in agreement to many of his experiences specifically the dilemma of pursuing a creative career against paying rent and feeding oneself. alex’s first big break was designing for lady gaga. aside from being avant-garde, he found that exposure through social media like twitter made him more known to other clients. this was the beginning of steadier ground. many of us were interested in knowing whether alex had any mentors. the fashion and style industry is often known for its ‘ice-edge’. this element precludes mentors and alex very candidly says that he could think of anyone he could turn to talk. 

on this note we break for lunch described as the last burst of summer. the plate is a composed of a salad of heirloom tomatoes, buckwheat pancakes with a plum compote that is equal parts fruit and mushrooms. the aroma of basil and lemon oils evoke summer. it is a combination that works in a way that i did not think it would. 

alex noble designs
post-lunch alex and sharmaine resume their conversation focussing on the process of design work. alex speaks to the differences between his own work and commissions. in the latter, the space of creativity and individual expressions is defined by the client. as an artist his vision has to work with enhancing a character that is already there. the challenge is to think of new ways to dress the person without moving away from the clients individual style. he calls this uber vision. his personal style is more on the lines of soft chiffons and silks embellished with digital printing. he is interested in intersecting art with fashion design. as terry brings forth dessert and the gong fu tea ceremony to conclude the afternoon alex reflects on the future - he wants to work abroad, to find new inspirations and new adventures. london has been an amazing city but he is looking for something more than merely ‘existing references and relationships’. such new reference points are necessary for all of us as they help us grow. but i can imagine that they are crucial to creative types given that design without inspiration is like a fish that is waterless. 

all pictures are courtesy of giulia mulè of mondomulia blog 

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