Cooking is much more than simply making food and putting it on plates. Cooking is caring; with every bite of food you place in your mouth, you are in a way taking care of your body and soul. The act of eating, thus, deserves to be taken seriously. Choosing the right cookware and tableware not only make food tastier, but also make cooking and dining more fun and enjoyable.
Recently, Marseille-based OROS and London/Taipei-based initial initiatives founded Local Ware, an experimental yet utilitarian project to celebrate the diversity of natural resources and lifestyles around the world. “We would like to spark the audience’s imagination for an alternative way of living with a focus on vernacular materials and everyday tools that serve the essential needs of the local community,” said Laure Amoros, founder of OROS. The first project of Local Ware that was unveiled in Marseille explores the most primitive human behaviour — food making. Local Ware: Cooking Edition studies the history of cooking tools in different cultures and how they can be used creatively in making Mediterranean cuisine. Four designers of various backgrounds, Chialing Chang, Guillaume Bloget, Liang-Jung Chen, and Rio Kobayashi, were invited to create exploratory cookware by bringing in an innovative cooking and dining experience.
Chialing Chang, who has previously lived in Japan and Taiwan, created a collection of rolling pins and pastry boards called Imprint using Taiwania, the one and only tree that is named after Taiwan. The series focuses on form shaping and pattern making. “I am interested in integrating the beauty of wood into the cooking process, where material characters resonate with everyday gestures. The Japanese technique Yakisugi was my starting point.” Mainly used for exterior siding and fencing on traditional houses, Yakisugi is a wood preservation method that adopts charring technique to increase the durability of wood. For the Imprint series, Chang picked planks and beams with unique patterns so that the inherent texture of the wood can be highlighted after the charring process. With the soft, charred parts removed, what’s left behind is a body of distinctive contour. Chang also made reference to Mediterranean food culture, such as pasta and gnocchi, and found a special way to imprint unique patterns on the dough. “As if we were to re-create a piece of bark from pastry.” With such an interesting method of making pasta, eating turns into a poetic act.
The second piece, Cloche, is a smokehouse by Paris-based designer Guillaume Bloget that is designed to cold-smoke food with wood chips or straw. It’s said that cold-smoking can better preserve the freshness of food. “I was fascinated by the idea to reinterpret tofu, an oriental food, with the western technique of wood smoking.” Bloget further explained, “To take Scamorza for example, an Italian spun cheese, tofu can be cold smoked from local timber and develop a new and unique flavour, resulting in the fusion between two cultures.” The cold-smoking process begins with lighting the wood chips in the hearth. Next, arrange the food around and extinguish the fire with the wooden bell. A few minutes later, lift the bell and let the smoke disperse. The food is now ready to be served. Over time, the wooden bell develops a distinctive aroma, creating a tenuous link with the food. Cloche is both a cooking and presentation tool that brings a sense of ritual to the dining table.
Laing-Jung Chen, founder of initial initiatives and co-founder of The Misused, a project that observes and repurposes hardware, created this series titled, Branch Collect, which contains a collection of slicers and cutters made using tree branches. “Rooted in the rigorous research into the similarity in cooking culture between Europe and Asia, I looked to tofu, my favourite food, for inspiration.” Chen continues, “I later discovered the process of tofu making shares a lot in common with cheese making, which is an important part of French/Mediterranean cuisine. Chen drew an analogy between the tofu-making tools and the tree structure to create this series of slicers of various sizes and uses, all the while, retaining the natural forms of the branches. Chen picked the seven branches for this series during her many trips into nature. Adding metal wires to the branches, they became useful cutting tools with unexpected cutting and slicing methods. When not in use, these tools turn into art pieces on the wall, inviting people to admire the beauty hidden within trees.
The last piece, Zarucolander, is a series of foldable colanders designed by London-based Japanese designer Rio Kobayashi. The series took inspiration from the Japanese Zaru, a draining basket made of bamboo that is mostly used for draining and serving Soba noodles that are made with buckwheat. In the West, a colander is mainly used to drain pasta, but is not used for serving. “I was keen to create a colander that doesn’t take up too much space in my small kitchen with limited storage space.” Kobayashi created the Zarucolander series with three types of wood, namely cherry, walnut, and beech. To create the colanders, he first steamed and bent the wood, then fastened them together with screws in black and red. The shape of the colanders can be adjusted by loosening or tightening the screws. Simply tighten the screws again to keep the desired shape in place. “Despite naming it a colander, I would like to keep the usages open. It has no specific instructions and is free to the user’s interpretation. They can also serve as a berry picking basket or a fruit bowl placed on the table.”
To put the pieces in real use, a cooking demonstration by French chef Ella Aflalo was held at Jogging, a hybrid of boutique, restaurant, and grocery, during the exhibition that took place earlier. Aflalo made use of the tools created by the designers to create a special menu for the guests, which included cold-smoked corn prepared using Cloche. The demonstration was not merely an experimental dining experience, it also made use of cooking tools to highlight the relationship between climate change, natural resources, and our everyday life.