Last night I attended a benefit dinner at the Foundry in Long Island City for New York City’s forthcoming Museum of Food And Drink, starring some of the city’s most forward-thinking culinary minds. Favorites like Amanda Cohen, Wylie Dufresne, Dominique Ansel and Franklin Becker each took on one of eight courses, interpreting future MOFAD exhibits like “Korea Before The Chili” and “Rastafarian Ital Diet” through cooking.
Props to our friend Nils Noren for crushing the Rasta course, by the way. I could eat that callalloo soup he discovered while living with a Jamaican family every day for the rest of my life. He didn’t use canned coconut milk, though; he made his own, because MOFAD’s mission is just that: reminding us that coconut milk doesn’t come from a can, it comes from coconuts. And cereal, the focus of MOFAD’s inaugural exhibit, which we previewed last night, doesn’t come from a box. It comes from a 3,200-pound steel puffer gun that applies pressure at about 120 psi and releases with a deafening bang, exploding every grain or kernel into what we buy about 3 billion boxes of every year. The museum’s curators set up a puffer gun rig for guests to experience first-hand outside the venue.
As the most highly funded museum in Kickstarter history (crowd-sourcing over $100,000), MOFAD will become the city’s first dedicated food museum with exhibits you can eat. About time, right? President and founder Dave Arnold delivered a wildly enthusiastic speech on the importance of this endeavor (now a decade in the works) before we all dove into Dominique Ansel’s interactive, deconstructed “Apple Pie Care Package.” Tin cans, tubes, jars and safety scissors were involved.
Executive Director Peter Kim, who began his career as an international litigator and totally ditched to work on the museum concept with Arnold, also spoke excitedly about his experience (“I told him I was so f*cking excited to f*cking do this f*cking thing”). The whole team strives towards “Smithsonian” standards. Every part of every exhibit will be meticulously researched, curated and sourced. That puffer gun? The company who manufactures it didn’t believe the museum actually wanted a functioning one.
Each chef spoke personally about their dish. Wylie Dufresne’s chicken liver spaetzle with radish, cocoa nibs, pickled bean sprouts and pine emulsion came with an extensive diagram explaining how each element represented Hippocrates’ ancient characteristics of the four humors, blood, yellow bile, black bile and…well, phlegm. Hey, it’s a legit food history museum — nobody said it was going to be all delicious all the time (but this dish totally was). Brooks Headley of Del Posto described his “Bomb Shelter Sandwich,” a loaded, foil-wrapped chickpea and quinoa burger served directly on the tablecloth (no plate) as something “9-year-old Brooks would have totally made in a bomb shelter.”
Folks, this is happening. Chefs and key players in the culinary world are very, very excited, and so are we. Donate to the cause — they’re working on raising a million dollars —and look forward (with relish) to educational and edible exhibits like TV Dinners, Pennsylvania Dutch Food and Food On The Battlefield. Sure, soldiers eat pizza MREs now. But let’s learn, and taste, what it was like before. That’s food history.
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