The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) has welcomed art enthusiasts to see the likes of Keith Haring, with his whimsical interpretation of people and shapes, Tara Donovan, with her dynamic three-dimensional designs, and local artist Andrew Jensdotter as he cultivated a display of “carved paintings” while methodical cuts pierced through layers of paint. These and more have allowed the expansion of imagery in the minds of Denverites who visit the museum. It broadens the depth of what art is understood as, progressing from what other historical museums showcase. Art takes the shape of sculpture, painting and photography in a typical setting, but on Thursday, September 30, MCA is bringing another art form often overlooked — the culinary arts.
The sustenance that people attain from food often makes it disappear before being able to appreciate the time and technique that develops each flavorful bite. Similar to artworks seen in museums, the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Some food fans lay captivated by the decadence of a molten cake as the chocolate runs out or the cheese pull that any good mac and cheese should have. However, the Dinner Series hosted by the MCA will showcase how food can really be mistaken for something on display — some potentially fearing if they should even take a bite — because of the work of Sydney Younggreen and Brian De Souza.
These masterminded chefs spark innovation with the flicker of a stove, the smoke of their yakitori grill and the pop of colors that radiate from their garden of ingredients that make each dish. They forgo the paint brush but take similar strokes to carefully cut through proteins like beef fat crusted dry-aged steak or delicate squab. Similarly, they take tweezers to thoughtfully place each microgreen to ensure it captures the picture that has been ruminating in their minds and waiting for a canvas.
Hailing from their own concept — The Guest — the chefs are able to develop recipes and create their own imagery. They push on the perception of what food is capable of when they have the darkness of squid ink color the base of a bright ceviche. Presenting an oyster with the shell makes shooting them easier, but The Guest chefs remove the oyster and utilize a clear gelée to hold the flavor of the ocean and the complimenting accouterments.
“Food is art in many ways — it’s creative; it’s visual; it invokes a feeling in people; it triggers memories,” said Younggreen.
Younggreen and De Souza aren’t strangers to the pop-up scene. It laid the foundation for their early projects together. After leaving Michelin-starred restaurants, they explored the U.S., emerging at different venues to showcase their craft. It was their own home, someone else’s or somewhere in between. Regardless, they would find a way to cook for the crowd. This venture with MCA marks their first collaborative dinner in Denver.
The MCA incorporated edible art into their museum since the quarterly dinners first began. This dinner marks the first reconvening since the halt from COVID. Attendees will arrive to an intimate experience walking through the latest exhibits of Jason Moran: Bathing the Room in Blues and Deborah Roberts: I’m. The last leg drops guests off in the hands of Younggreen and De Souza. They plan to transform the rooftop patio into their art culinary studio, with the painted sky and vibrant sunset setting the scene for the rest of the night.
The Guest will provide a three-course meal. Younggreen and De Souza maintain their namesake with special treatment for all guests. An amuse bouche welcomes their entrance and a take home sweet rides with them home. Younggreen and De Souza maintain techniques that fans have seen before. However, as any celebration needs, a set of surprises thread throughout the menu. This event marks a final opportunity to taste their work for the near future as they close to focus on relocating. As present artists, they’ll speak on behalf of their work to provide insight into their creative choices.
MCA creates the ability for individuals to engage with art rather than gaze from afar. MCA food and beverage director Dylan Woods is the newest coordinator to lead the program. The Dinner Series has featured a diverse group of chefs to perform for the night. Past participants include the team from The Bindery and Table 6 — both staple restaurants within the city. However, The Guest offers insight into the future of the Denver food scene, even with their recent arrival.
“I was given the opportunity to highlight the chefs in our community that are changing the way we understand food. That is definitely an art form,” Woods said.
The event runs from 7 – 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $195. Purchase tickets here.