What would Willy Wonka make for dinner?
If anyone behind a stove — and centrifuge, and liquid nitrogen canister — has that answer, it’s Maxime Bilet, a co-author of the landmark Modernist Cuisine and former head chef at The Cooking Lab at Nathan Myhrvold’s Bellevue-based Intellectual Ventures (and, full disclosure, a former colleague.)
Bilet has spent the past year on projects combining education and food, and on Thursday night he’ll kick off a series of “sensory and interdisciplinary” dinners meant to help build a project to make the same experiences available to the broader community. There are a handful of tickets left for the inaugural event through the One Night Only project (they start at a steep $350) for a 10+-course, five-senses performance in an apartment penthouse that carries the disclaimer “None of the apartment fixtures or furniture will be fed to diners.”
Those who saw Bilet in a Modernist Cuisine demonstration at Bumbershoot last year on food and the senses have some idea of the experiences and adventures he shares through meals, whether combining a spherified, cold-concentrated sip of orange juice where “all those beautiful flavors never got damaged” with the scent and colors of the orange, or making “exploding chocolate” with Pop Rocks to a musical accompaniment.
Food “is one of our best ways of communicating, really, one of the essential elements that connects us — the most basic and also the most refined in many ways,” he said.
Bilet’s pre-chef background is in fine arts and literature, and he’s been using both to bring his ideas to a wider audience and support various causes, including teaming up with Marcus Samuelsson to teach kids from the Children’s Storefront in Harlem, and volunteering with the Edible Schoolyard projects at McCarver Elementary School in Tacoma. Students from the Tacoma program will help out at Thursday’s dinner, plating many courses of “pretty elaborate food with us,” along with “one of my heroes,” their teacher, Julia Martin-Lombardi.
“It’s going to be a multi-layered experiment. It’s going to be my food, as flavorful and delicious as I hope it’s ever been, but it will be composed and sort of enhanced, layered with a variety of other sensory experiences.”
Waiting for his ideas to come to the streets? Thanks to a city grant, he’ll have projects in a Seattle storefront later this year that will be open to all. We’ll have details once they’re finalized.
Other notable upcoming dinner extravaganzas include:More