COVINGTON -- Put a group of chefs and artists in a room, and things are bound to get interesting.
At the Carnegie’s Art of Food, creative boundaries meld for a blend of visual, performing and culinary arts.
“The Art of Food was originally designed to showcase the chefs and restaurants, and artwork by individual artists,” said Katie Brass, executive director of the Carnegie arts venue in Covington. Over the years, however, the showcase has evolved into an interactive event that has to be experienced.
Pam Kravetz, an artist and the self-professed “Pied Piper” of the Art of Food, leads artists and performers to create works that bring to life this year’s theme, Farm to Gallery. The theme takes the farm-to-table movement for an artistic jaunt.
“We want to honor what the chefs do, and how important the farmers are, but we also want to do it in a playful way,” Kravetz said.
To mark the event’s 10th anniversary, this year the Carnegie is adding an extra night for patrons who seek a more intimate experience with the chefs and artists. On Feb. 24, seven chefs will serve food, and dishes will come with beverage pairing recommendations. Tickets for that night are limited to 200 at $100 each.
“The Wednesday night event will feature fewer chefs, larger portions, valet, open bar and a higher ticket price,” Brass said.
On Feb. 26, the Art of Food returns with its familiar format of light bites by 20 chefs, artistic interactive performances, a DJ, dancing and a cash bar. Tickets for that event are sold out.
A Feast for Eyes, Mouths
"The artwork this year is loosely set up to trace the path from the farm to the chefs but in an intentionally humorous and fun way," said Matt Distel, the Carnegie's exhibition director.
Expect to see the familiar milkmaid, but with pieces of her garment made out of butter wrapping paper. Watch out for a couple of roller derby girls who will look like moving broccoli -- wigs, garments and all.
There also will be many paintings and sculptures celebrating food and farm, and even photographs of the hands of a chef and farmer to highlight their work with hands.
"From Ken Page’s sly paintings of cows confronting conceptual art on the farm to Tony Dotson’s folk art twist on a butcher shop to Antonio Adams’ portraits of the Art of Food chefs, each gallery tackles a different step along the way to your plate,” Distel said.
Look for a barn built on stilts in the main gallery. “You're going to be able to walk underneath the barn. The DJ is going to be up there on Friday night,” Kravetz noted.
Painting in Potatoes
The chefs are cooking up delicious artwork of their own. On Wednesday, Stephen Williams, the chef and owner of Bouquet, will dish up pickled mushroom duxelles, basil potato glass and beet soil, with spicy honey gastrique. Alfio Gulisano, the chef and co-owner of Alfio's Buon Cibo, will craft baked five-cheese Angus ravioli, served with a creamy tomato sauce.
Friday brings out a wide variety of light bites by chefs like Derek dos Anjos, chef and owner of The Anchor OTR. "We will be offering a kind of crudo cocktail – gin-cured scallop with turmeric, cucumber tonic foam, whitefish roe and tangerine gem," he said.
Suzanne DeYoung, the founder and head chef of the nonprofit La Soupe, will prepare her French aunt Helene's roasted winter vegetable potage (soup) with seasonal stir-ins. Kate Cook, the garden manager at Carriage House Farm, is teaming up with Shalini Latour of Chocolats Latour. "I will be sampling some of my herbal tea blends with our honey, and she will be sampling her chocolate bars that use the same herbs," Cook said.
Other culinary delights include Red Feather's chicken liver pate served with crostini, red onion marmalade and grained mustard. However, Williams of Bouquet has a more unusual creation planned: He'll be making vessels out of melted beeswax from Carriage House Farm to hold a dessert of white chocolate, gold leaf, bee pollen and caramel. (Beeswax is, in fact, edible, and "eats like chewing gum," he said.)
Beyond the Chef's Coat
You might even catch a couple of your favorite chefs in costume. Last year, Jean-Robert de Cavel dressed up as the villainous Lord Licorice to play along with the Candy Land theme. Kravetz hinted the French chef likely would dress up again this year, alongside a couple other chefs.
The playful nature of the event masks the amount of planning and work that go into it. The artists usually start work in late summer, and it is a labor of love. "It should be pointed out that no one, not the chefs or artists and performers, are paid for the Art of Food. They all give so much, and they are all on top," Brass said.
The proceeds from the Art of Food go to the Carnegie to help with operational expenses.
"We all love the Carnegie,” Kravetz said. “This is all for the love of creating, sharing and supporting the art center we really love."
If you go:
6-9 p.m. Feb. 24. $100
Food by seven local chefs, live music from Jake Speed and the Freddies, complimentary valet, and open bar. Dishes will come with beverage pairing recommendations.
6-9 p.m. Feb. 26. $25 members, $40 general (sold out)
Dinner-by-the-bite from 20 local chefs, music and dancing with DJ Dirty C. A cash bar and valet service also will be available.
Tickets are available through the Carnegie Box Office (open noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday), by phone at 859-957-1940 or online at www.thecarnegie.com.
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO Digital. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek.