Lake-flavoured water, tacos made from insects and "century-old eggs" were all on the menu at an experimental restaurant located in a Wrocław gallery (+ slideshow).
The Soil and Water project was created by a collective of chefs, farmers, potters and scientists called Food Think Tank. Aiming to find a "perfect taste", the group used unusual natural ingredients and processes to create a range of foods.
The project culminated in an exhibition at the Dizajn BWA gallery in April and a four-hour meal in an underground restaurant.
The DIY-inspired exhibition space – designed by Polish studio BudCud – included photographic documentation of the six-month project, an installation showing communication between members of the group, and items that demonstrated their experiments.
It also featured The Black Lodge – a large shed containing a dry room where boar ham was hung in one half and a humid room containing herb seedlings occupied the other.
"Our intention was to create a vital space where on one hand the viewers will be able to observe the process behind creating a restaurant and the other where the Food Think Tank members will show trials of their work with descriptive info about their experiments," said Karolina Zajaczkowska and Lukasz Wasyliszyn, curators of the project.
"We wanted to show all the ceramic and culinary samples, which otherwise would have been left hidden in basements or kitchen facilities," they added.
Almost 50 chefs, farmers, potters and scientists worked for free for half a year according to the collective's principles, which include "the more you give, the more you get" and "those who will take a passive attitude, will be excluded".
"It is not only a micro-laboratory of taste, but also of socially engaged design confronting the challenges of the modern world," said Zajaczkowska and Wasyliszyn. "The exhibition is posing the question: can a self-organised group of activists be an answer to the global crisis?"
A selection of visitors to the space were treated to a four-hour dining experience on 22 April in a restaurant dug into the ground. The meal comprised "ready meals" that included lake-flavoured water – made by distilling water taken from a body of fresh water – and tacos made from insects milled down into flour.
"All inspirations came from the wheel of flavours and tastes around the main idea of the project - earth and water," explained the curators. "Beside the taste the chefs were playing with the textures and smell of their proposals."
Diners were also served "century-old eggs", made by immersing eggs in a sodium hydroxide and salt solution for 10 days, and then dipping them in wheat crumbles and kaolin before being left for another 10 days.
"The value of the process itself exceeds the effects of designer's actions as other values get emphasised: the ability to find right tools, methods, creation of working conditions, accumulation of knowledge and undertaking attempts while diminishing the role of trends and mass consumerism," said Katarzyna Roj of Dizajn BWA.
Photography is by Jędrzej Stelmaszek.