Ceramics have been taking up column inches in the trend sections of major newspapers lately. Last month we had the New York Times talking about the “white hot” (a curious title that we still haven’t figured out; maybe there’s nothing to get) studio ceramics trend in NYC. Recently, the Times were joined by the Washington Post, which ran an article about restaurants that try to set themselves apart by commissioning their own ceramic tableware.
Above image: Amber Kendrick, owner of Cloud Terre Design. Photograph by April Greer for the Post.
If you’re like an increasing number of eateries, you commission and even help design custom serving pieces and tableware.
In other words, for some chefs and restaurateurs, plain old white dishes just aren’t cutting it anymore, especially at a time when pictures of their food are being snapped by Yelpers, Instagrammers and professional photographers.
“The food is obviously the star of the show, but to eat food off of someone’s artwork really gives it life,” said Tarver King, who has collaborated with Arlington-based design studio Cloud Terre at both his current job at the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Va., and his previous gig at the Ashby Inn in Paris, Va.
The trend is partly to enhance the experience surrounding food. Something else, let’s call it novelty for want of a better word, is also in play.
In Chicago, modernist chef Grant Achatz has been partnering for years with designer Martin Kastner for pieces at his restaurant Alinea and bar Aviary. They include a bud vase that doubles as a chopstick rest and a hand-blown glass tumbler that can spin in circles on the table (it looks kind of like a toppled dreidl).
The Post mentions Instagram and food photographers. Some of the quirky designs we’ve seen seem to be chasing the dragon of social media buzz. A few months ago the Catit restaurant in Tel Aviv hung a lamp on that idea by commissioning tableware that was specifically for food photography. In light of what we’ve read in the Post, Catit’s tableware seems more like a satirical comment about gimmicks in fine dining. For now we’ll support our friends in the field and withhold criticism until five-star restaurants start installing ball pits.
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