When fashion meets food

Fashion and food? Why not? Organisers of the S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 have partnered with Vogue Italia to lend an apt fashion element to the inaugural search for the world’s best chefs under 30. Each of the 20 chef finalists have been paired with an upcoming designer selected by Vogue Italia to compete in a final challenge where each designer will showcase a fashion piece inspired by the young chefs’ winning dish.

As such, the South-east Asia winner, chef Kirk Westaway of JAAN, will team up with Filipino marine biologist-turn-accessories designer Ken Samudio who has designed a clutch that references the chef’s dish of ‘forest pigeon’. (Incidentally, the dish features a slow-roasted leg of the French pigeon, from Plouneour in Brittany, served with barley risotto, salsify, and a puree and sauce made with the pigeon’s heart and liver.)

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In line with JAAN’s feted focus on seasonality, Westaway, 29, has made minor changes to the ingredients he used in the regional challenge in February, using salsify instead of Chinese artichokes. The tweaks, he said, has resulted in a better dish for the finals in Milan, which happens on June 26.

“Seasons have change so the vegetables are all gone; so today (there are) salsify, salsified butter and salsify puree,” he said, adding that these are a bit more savoury and complement the dish better. He is also using pickled blue foot mushrooms, which he has pickled in soya sauce and chardonnay vinegar. “The flavours I’ve got here today work better for me.”

Meanwhile, Samudio’s fashion vison of the dish comes in the form of a handmade clutch bag, which was conceptualised only after the pairing was confirmed in March. The 33-year-old did not get to taste the dish but found enough to work with based on the its visual complexity: From the dish’s natural colours and organic texture to the rich sauce and even the shape of the pigeon’s leg.

“It was very difficult especially when you are not given the opportunity to taste it,” he said.

After corresponding with Westaway on social media, Samudio decided on a geometric design that features his signature beading technique, applied on a combination of recycled and natural materials, such as recycled moulded plastic and Japanese seed beads. He said that, aside from the sculpted twig used for the bag’s clasp, which is meant referenced the pigeon leg, he did not want the piece to be too literal. He said the choice of materials matches the inspiration of Westaway’s dish because “it’s about the woodlands, the forest”.

After tasting the dish, Samudio said: “I would want to put a red velvet lining because I would want to give it the gamy, tender texture of the (pigeon). This is the first time I’ve translated (something) from food, so it was quite a challenge - but a good challenge.”

So would he explore similar inspirations for his line of accessories? “Yes, now that I have seen how it works; and they both stem from creativity ... I think I would want to try again, although it’s really, really hard,” he mused.

Vogue Italia will choose the most talented designer from the line-up, while cuisine and fashion lovers attending the final event will cast their vote for the Best Chef-Designer Couple 2015. The S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 winner will be selected by a panel of seven esteemed international chefs - Gaston Acurio, Yannick Alleno, Massimo Bottura, Margot Janse, Yoshihiro Narisawa, Joan Roca and Grant Achatz.

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