Imagine eating a meal that our food-obsessed President ate (Jefferson), or a dish that was typical of a Medieval King’s feast. With ArtBites, Maite Gomez-Réjon has made this a reality. On her country-wide museum tours, guests view an exhibition and then prepare a meal with ingredients or methods that were typical of that time period.
Maite Gomez-Réjon, a former chef and educator at Malibu’s Getty Villa, started these classes on a whim to combine two of the things that she loved most: art and food. Before she knew it, her classes were sold out and there was demand for more. So she quit her job and began this successful and unique company. She chooses the museums basically by chance; friends she’s made in the industry invite her to do a class based on new exhibitions that they are doing, or for a culinary center they are starting.
What really fascinates Gomez-Réjon, and what got her into this business, is what people were eating when these works of art were created: what were they drinking, what ingredients were they using, and how were they cooking? It’s not always one particular piece of art that inspires her to create a recipe, sometimes it’s just the overall theme of the collection. With her classes, you get a history and cooking lesson all in one.
Here is a mini, cross-country tour of some of the museums and exhibitions that she’s taught at around the country along with the recipes and the works of art that inspired them.
The fish sauce used in these fresh-tasting meatballs was actually created by the Greeks and commonly used in Ancient Greece. This photograph is of a 17th century Laocoon sculpture that is a small copy of an original ancient Greek sculpture at California’s Huntington Museum.
Saffron, a historically expensive product, gives food a rich flavor and a deep, sunset-orange color. This recipe was inspired by Part I of Gomez-Réjon’s Grand Tour of the History of Collecting at LACMA. Click here to see the portrait and painting from the exhibition.
For an Impressionist exhibit, Gomez-Réjon felt a pastry theme, like this dessert, made sense because of the history of the sugar trade during that time period and also because Monet and other Impressionists were, as she says, “huge foodies” who loved sweets and were also French.
President Jefferson was a modern-day food lover back in the day, who spent a lot of time in France and brought some of his European tastes back with him to America (like the first pasta machine). These recipes were inspired by two paintings, both from 1788 – the year before the French Revolution and the year before Jefferson left France — as well as this portrait of King Louis XVI of France.
Inspired by Marie Antoinette’s favorite dessert, this recipe was used for the ArtBites tour of the Resnick collection at LACMA, which features European paintings and sculptures. The painting that inspired it was a 1783 portrait of Marie Antoinette.
Gomez-Réjon prepared this recipe in her class, The King’s Table: A Culinary Workshop that focused on Medieval Art, but the recipe is based off of this painting even though it wasn’t in the actual tour.