What do designers like to eat?

Last year, CR’s Patrick blogged about how two features in our August issue mentioned the importance of “lunchtime arrangements” in studio culture. Now a new book, What’s Cooking? asks 28 designers specifically about the food and recipes they like

Last year, CR’s Patrick blogged about how two features in our August issue mentioned the importance of “lunchtime arrangements” in studio culture, and many of our readers concurred. Now a new book, What’s Cooking? asks 28 designers specifically about the food they like, and for their favourite recipes…

For studios where designers sit working at a desk for most of the day, the chance to be together at lunch can be an important communal time. Design itself is also like cooking in many respects. Different ingredients go into following a brief, or recipe, with the process being – as Korean designer and academic Chang Sik Kim writes in this design-led cookery book – “not about mixing, but integration, harmony and balance.”

So what sustains the famous designers featured in What’s Cooking?

Well, Wim Crouwel, whose mealtime activities while at Total Design in the 60s were revealed in the aforementioned issue of CR, starts off proceedings with an admission: “I cannot even bake an egg”. But he follows this up by pointing readers to a Dutch wintertime staple, Stamppot boerenkool met worst, and its a simple recipe.

Russian graphic designer, Vladimir Chaika, offers up two different borsch recipes (with a frozen glass of vodka as a tempting addition), while Wally Olins praises the theatrics of Japanese cooking, and Niklaus Troxler extols the original Birchermüesli (don’t call it muesli!) designed by Zurich-based health food pioneer, Dr. Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Brenner (1867-1939).

Not all the recommendations are ones that Dr. Max would necessarily endorse. For example, Martin Lambie-Nairn advocates “cuisine’s answer to democracy”, “this most excellent of English dishes” – the all-day breakfast. And Michael Wolff likes to “keep it simple”, something that “good fry-ups in cheap cafes” can certainly provide.

Wolff also offers some thoughts on the importance of food and the communal experience within a studio environment, remembering how Wolff Olins’ hospitality became a significant part of how clients experienced the company. “For me, the quality of food in a design company is a good indicator of the quality of imagination and creativity,” he writes. “Ordinary and tasteless food usually means boring work.”

While Paula Scher opts for a Jumbledlaya, a Jamabalaya-style dish which is apparently simple to make (“chopping and stirring”) but boasts a hefty set of ingredients, there is a definite purist notion to the some of the choices, too.

Critic Steven Heller poetically exalts the simplicity of the poached egg (“poaching is much less violent than frying or scrambling or omeleting or baking – all requiring the egg to touch hot metal and cosmic pain”) and, perhaps most revealing of her own approach to graphic design practice, Margaret Calvert offers a fantastic treatise on the simplicity of spaghetti, served only with a sauce of garlic, tomato and oregano (and a few other herbs).

The book is ring-bound, wipe-clean, and clearly designed to be used in the kitchen. With that, I think a couple of humble ‘poachies’ are in order.

What’s Cooking? Famous Designers On Food is published by Baseline Magazine; £17 (including P&P). See baselinemagazine.com.



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