We were so busy gnawing on tender, smoky duck legs slathered in guava sauce at an Art Basel event last year that we neglected to realize that the smoker they emerged from was actually "the art." Hard to believe we overlooked the tall, painted steel sculpture, what with its unusual shape and all.
And it wasn't until the hosts walked us back outside to meet "chef" Jason Hedges that we learned he wasn't just the caterer -- he was one of the artists we originally came out to meet. "A lot of my work is performative," Hedges explains. "I end up serving food."
Hedges told us he has been working with cuisine as art for about a decade. "It's something that's universally shared, regardless of race, sex, economic background -- it doesn't matter."
On that particular night, he served proteins, but the New World School of the Arts graduate who originally focused on ceramics has used corn, wheat, rice, bread, and wheat grass as mediums. His first piece was a salad comprising "60-something ingredients."
"It was to play on complexity," he explained.
He has also painted with red wine and placed paper close enough to the little chimney pipe on the smoker to make smoke drawings. It takes about six hours to get enough residue to make an image.
"For me, this is like making the intangible thing tangible," he explains of the latter. Color variances, he says, come from employing varying qualities and varieties of charcoal.
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And as for his barbecuing methods, well, that's a bit of an art form too: "It gets hot in, like, an hour. Things cook from two to 12 hours. All wood. I prefer oak. Slow and low."
Check out some of Hedges's works at jasonhedges.org, or if you want to taste some, line him up for your next party.