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02/17/14 Chef Bo Lindegaard of I’m a KOMBO

We’re reached a tipping point in dining, where people are less interested in sharing a meal than flaunting food snobbery. Where too-serious eating tends to ruin appetites, Danish chefs Lasse Askov and Bo Lindegaard are pushing a different mindset. Through private dining group I’m a KOMBO, the chefs reassert the social aspect of eating by getting people to “act, react, and interact” via wildly creative concoctions.

In past events, the duo created a wall airbrushed with edible grass, inviting diners to make like grazing animals and lick it. Through this act, the boundaries of the stiff three-course meal are broken into something simpler and engaging. At a recent dinner in Tokyo, guests were segregated from one another by tablecloth, forcing them to cut through it to share servings. By collaborating on ways to get people out of their culinary comfort zones, the chefs bring food back to its most enjoyable state: that when it is shared.

NOUS spoke to Lindegaard about upping the art in food presentation and the comforts of communal consumption 

How is I’m a KOMBO attempting to change how we approach dining today?

We are professionally educated chefs that grew tired of the stiff and predictable framework of modern mealing. Interpreted by modernist and haute cuisine, it has lost a fundamental part of its space: the social part. By introducing very complex and highly scientific methods, often the guest is lost in translation, becoming more of a spectator than a participant. Through our work with food as a means of expression, we build social relations, expanding the scope from a traditional family meal to including complete strangers engaging in temporary creative relationships.

How did your use of food as an abstract art medium come about? 

As we invite guests to interact and involve themselves in the meal, a new social space occurs—a space that can resemble the undefined space of art. One strong characteristic of art is its lack of a defined functionality. On the contrary, food has a primary and defined function—to obtain satiety. When interpreting the meal from our perspective, we benefit from food’s primary function by establishing a simple act of mealing and then creatively investigate this space.

What is your creative process and partnership with Lasse like?

The combination of Lasse and I was more contrasting at the beginning of our corporation. I was mostly concerned with food and space whereas Lasse was investigating food structure and taste. During the recent five years, we have approached each other and now work from more or less a similar mindset—a combination. When developing and brainstorming, we actually involve the whole office of four, discussing and refining ideas. Regularly we arrange our own workshops to be inspired. We visit exhibitions, watch movies and YouTube fragments, attend relevant events, try to journey the world to gather reactions and a new outlook. Often our office reminds of a hoarding full of crazy bits and parts as we try to construct a lamp from bread or textile snack bowls. It emphasizes our curiosity and our determination not to be bound by any specific culture or means of expression.

Can you talk about your recent trip to Tokyo and the work you did there?  

In Tokyo we collaborated with Danish flower artist Nicolai Bergmann and Copenhagen Art Academy artist Peter Bonde. Our dinner includes a new version of our decomposable wall, where we separate the dining table by a cloth, inviting guests to cut through it to share the servings. In this way we create a somehow restricted space, letting guests gradually turn it communal. In Tokyo, the wall features flowers and a twisted version of Japanese open face sandwiches and Danish sushi. We have never been hosted better than in Japan and never laughed more than in Shanghai.

Given the revolutionary sort of food you make, we’re curious: what would you consider “comfort food”?

Comfort food is our way of paying tribute to and respecting tradition after all. It is always the centerpiece of our meal, presenting something easy to recognize, tender, tasty without question, and sharable. During the past years, we have come to realize this: when doing what we do, we are obliged to acknowledge that food has to be really tasty, and sometimes you just want to sit at the family table enjoying mom’s cookery. The centerpiece of our meal is always a moment of delicious taste and relaxing comfort. When dragging guests out of their comfort zone, we need at a certain point to bring them back home.

DecomposableWall_please credit Oscar Meyer

UpsidedownChina_Recentproject)please credit Oscar Meyer