Sam Bompas and Harry Parr founded their multidisciplinary studio Bompas & Parr in 2007. The duo has since sown a tight-knit relationship between the architectural and culinary worlds, generating installations which tease all of the senses in one experience. Speaking at the upcoming Ninety Minutes of Frame: Pigment Pioneers, Sam Bompas speaks with us about his growing studio's affinity for the fine art of jelly making:
What do you do?
Sam Bompas: We do a funny mix of things for art galleries, extreme mega-brand corporate stuff, which is often in a weird way, way more creative with a lot less boundaries to creativity, and then just our own stuff that we think has to happen. Let’s just frickin' do it and have fun with it.
It’s hard to describe you…
We actually had a problem. Now we work – a year ago it was just me and Harry, and we had a few people who helped us realise the things we were working on. Now we’ve got whole teams working on their own projects. We realised that everyone had the same problem – they’d go to the pub and people would ask them what they do – and they’d say ‘I don’t really know, but I can tell you what we’re working on – cooking with lava, working with Selfridges to make a boating lake, live events – an exhibition on the future of funerals, an exhibition at the Sex Museum of New York on eroticism and fairgrounds, the Guinness tasting experience in Dublin. We just designed two bars in Dublin that have just launched as well, so we sat down and realizsd that we had to define what we do, because people can’t make any sense out of it. And we just said that we’re going to be called experience designers.
You said you wanted total food domination?
I think we’re getting there, we’re certainly working internationally at the moment, which is great, last week Harry was in Istanbul for a catering job for Louis Vuitton, I was in New York launching this organ that changes the perception of taste, then we met in Harvard to give a lecture on taste and architecture and how the two intertwine, temple of the tongue, it was called.
For me it’s working, across a lot of things. Now we’re working with the world’s biggest food companies, people like Unilever, Diageo, who have the world’s biggest impact on what people put in their stomachs. We work with them to see what’s the best thing they can do to give people the most joyful experience. That’s it really. At the same time we work a lot in the cultural sphere, trying to give people incredible experiences, publishing books, trying to be free with the ideas we’ve developed. This is our idea, now you go and do it.
Why does it always come back to jelly?
I guess, well, when we’re writing a menu it’s our signature dish, and it’s one course where we don’t have to think about something new. Secondly, it’s a really good conductor for flavour, so if you make chicken, ultimately it tastes like chicken, but jelly can taste be anything so long as you can reduce it to a liquid form, you can make it into a jelly. The implication from that is that if you’re working for someone else, you can learn a lot about a person’s palate from the jelly they make, so I always taste it to learn where their sense of taste is like.
Jelly it’s still fascinating – after seven years, afte three years, we thought we’d done it all, been around the world making jellies, then we thought well what about blowing up jellies and started this whole wedding service of exploding wedding cakes, people got really excited about, then we found out how to do what had previously eluded us, how to make really big jellies on a budget. We had the world’s biggest jelly – 50 tonnes – for 500 quid. It was the most watched thing on the BBC on the same day the Greek economy went down. On a day when real news was happening, all people were watching was jelly. It’s one of those things that delights people.
Hear Sam Bompas speak more about this subject tonight at the Pakhuis de Zwijger, RSVP here. Details about the event and line-up are available on Ninety Minutes of Frame's website.
Event details and speaker line-up are available on Ninety Minutes of Frame's website. Find announcements and live event updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Thursday 19 February 2015, 8pm
Pakhuis De Zwijger
Piet Heinkade 179, Amsterdam
English spoken, Admission free
20:00 Intro Jeroen Junte
20:05 Keynote Sam Bompas | Bompas & Parr
20:35 Research Anne van der Zwaag | Curator
20:50 Claim to Frame Hilde Koenders | Designer
21:05 Colourful Constructions Krijn de Koning | Artist
The 7th edition of Ninety Minutes of Frame is TBA.