Profile : Food Artist | Caro De Waal
issue five : a feast for gluttony
We chat with Caro De Waal. A Capetonian contemporary artist, who uses food as her muse.
Caro, In her own words:
I am a food artist. Or, a sensory food experience designer. Or, a conceptual food curator. I made those all up because I am not one thing and there is no one description for what I do.
My studies include fine art, graphics and computer graphics, 3D animation, digital multimedia, chef, food media and now I have finally found my passion. It is a true passion and is alive and electric.
I did not finish the first half of my collection of studies, but now I have wrapped them all up in one ever-evolving bundle of epicurean creativity.
I have been this ‘thing’ for nearly 4 years and have, so far, designed edible art installations, food experiences, photographic shoots and film, paired food to art and curated multi-sensory exhibitions.
But I want to do better and try harder.
Natural ingredients, wild herbs and medicinal herbs are a big interest and feature more and more in my work. Living under Table Mountain and with fynbos on my doorstep, I constantly study and forage the local herbs and wildflowers that make up this extraordinarily interesting biome.
Fynbos is one of only six floral kingdoms in the world and it's the only one that occurs entirely in one country. South Africa.
These herbs and flowers are used in my drinks and food design and I’ve made natural lip balms and edible perfumes and essences with them.
Caro and team built this 'nest' using only the natural fynbos from the Old Mac Daddy farm in Elgin, Westen cape of South Africa. The Elgin area had just seen a wildfire in the recent months and so the blackened burned branches were the base of the nest.
Fresh wild rosemary was the stick on which we spun the candyfloss, the heat of the machine releases the oils within the rosemary and infuses the spun sugar to create a wonderful sweet-savoury taste.
The Cape honey bee (Apis mellifera capensis) is another healthy obsession of mine and I can utilise the huge variety in colours and flavours, due to the richness of the floral kingdom, in my work.
'Honey' is a collaboration between Caro de Waal from Eat Design (http://www.eatdesign.co.za) and Hein van Tonder (http://www.heinstirred.com). Shot in December 2014 and edited by Eden Weiss.
I find that people really connect to these natural tastes and smells, even if subliminally. I feel that they awaken our primal connection to the harmony with nature.
Man’s gorging on the earth will be our undoing and my subject of the moment is to highlight the juxtaposition of where we are now at odds with nature, to where we should be, and where we once were, in harmony with nature.
Sensory Food Experience at the four seasons:
Caro was tasked with exploring Mother Nature’s moods in the seasons and intertwine it into a sensory dinner experience with a strong aural and visual inclusion. Weather, colourful light, nature sounds and fragrance were used to trigger the senses and experience the seasons in all their powerful glory.
I always use the most locally sourced produce, as close to the location of the installation possible. It changes as the locations change but I do have small, passionate suppliers all over South Africa that help me to get to the core of how to get the best out if what we have at our fingertips. I pick my own flowers, herbs and plants from the pavements, fields and the mountains in and around the areas I’m working in.
To limit waste most effectively on a project is to be mindful of the ingredients in such a way that I use, for example, the whole plant in different dishes. I could use the flowers as a garnish, the leaves in an infusion for a drink and the roots in the design. The repeating of ingredients used in a way that doesn’t repeat taste is the key.
How do you limit food waste and incorporate this practice into your work when you are creating an installation?
At the moment, wild rosemary – it is a fynbos herb that grows all over Cape Town. It can be used in savoury and sweet dishes and has a beautiful fragrance even when dried and burned.
One ingredient that you can't live without?
When I realised that I ‘can do anything, if I put my mind to it and just make it happen’. It took a long time to allow my mind to use all its learnings and just think on a different plane or more laterally. Once I started on my first idea which was a sensory food experience themed around the Magic Faraway Tree, my passion bloomed inside me and I just knew that, no matter what, I would be doing this for the rest of my life.
When was the moment you knew that this 'thing' was a viable career path?
I love how an idea begins in my head and then morphs and changes until it becomes a reality. That ebb and flow is my favourite. It can be very challenging when something doesn’t work out as I planned it (which often happens), but overcoming those challenges can give birth to a different direction and new ideas.
What is the most beautiful thing about the work that you do?
Gluttony for me is what we, as humans are doing to the world. We are gorging on it, becoming obese on our own egos and devouring everything that is perfect in the world.
Nature. And the natural order of things.
We are over-fishing, genetically modifying and pushing hormones into the animals we are growing for slaughter to be made into McDonalds burger patties with no flavour or nutritional value.
Gluttony is eating and drinking something that has been changed by us so much that it no longer tastes of what it should.
What would your feast for gluttony look like?
I feel that food artistry is growing and becoming a really beautiful platform for artists and designers in any realm of creativity. I love that food can be integrated into fashion, hair, make-up, floristry, painting, sculpting, furniture, film, photography… pretty much anything. The collaborations and scope is endless. It’s a very exciting time.
In your opinion, what is the shape of things to come in food artistry?
“You’re not doing open-heart surgery, you’re doing food. Don’t take it too seriously and let yourself play. Play all day. And then make it happen” - Sam Wilson-Spath, my editor at an online food magazine where I learned a huge amount about media and the food industry out of the kitchen.
This was some advice that I have kept with me and always refer back to when things get a bit too serious.
What is the best advise you've ever received? And from whom?
A Live dessert installation in front of guests (+- 200) to reflect the feel and symbol of the MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa.
Working around the idea of the Silos, Caro based all designs on collections of spheres, circular design and the silos themselves. . The MOCAA is being built inside the enormous old grain silos and will be home to Africa’s finest contemporary art. An architectural masterpiece.