We go behind-the-scenes with the AGO’s Executive Chef Anne Yarymowich to find out where she gets her ideas for a menu to complement a show like Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde and to find out about some of her favourite dishes from shows past.
Anne collaborates with chef de cuisine Martha Wright to create contemporary comfort cuisine: food that is warm and inviting, prepared with honesty and integrity. FRANK’s menu showcases an exclusively Ontarian wine list and seasonal ingredients, striving to support local producers with a dedication to global concepts of sustainable farming and slow food. But a meal at FRANK or in our cafe is about more than just tasty eats . As Anne explains, it’s all about enhancing the visitor experience by creating a relationship between the art and the food….
“When I’m planning a menu based on a show at the Gallery my inspiration comes from a number of places. One is the point of origin of the artist or the place that he or she worked. For example, Matisse is French but his work, such as his Odalisque pieces, has Moroccan content from when he visited the French North African Colonies. I also look to the subject matter of the paintings. Sometimes we go shopping for specific vessels, like tagines for Morocco.
In Chagall we have a Russian Jew working in Paris so there are many rich sources of inspiration. We always ask ourselves (of the show) ‘is it food friendly?’ I’ve got a vast collection of cookbooks and magazines that I can turn to for ideas and inspiration, including a great book on Jewish cuisine.
We wanted to make sure that the menu for Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde was respectful of Jewish culture. We’re not a kosher kitchen but we chose a menu that didn’t use any pork or shellfish.
We always do lots of background research when preparing for a show like Chagall. Luckily this time we had done lots of the groundwork already when researching for Catherine The Great: Arts for the Empire – Masterpieces from The State Hermitage Museum, Russia. I was also able to draw from my own heritage – my background is Ukranian and there is definitely crossover between Ukranian and Russian cuisine.
Then there’s Paris, where Chagall such a crucial period of time. It’s a great culinary destination and one we can invoke with food like croissants and confit – the kinds of food Chagall might have eaten at that time. It takes about a month to brainstorm, test and mull over new concepts for our menus.
We try to stay true to the Frank brand, but with tweaks and nods to what’s going on in the Gallery. Our ultimate goal is to enrich the visitor’s experience of the show. Using tastes and sounds and bits and bites we help to create an immersive experience for the visitor that uses all of their senses. For example, when we had the William Wegman show made up exclusively of pictures of his Weimarner dogs we decided to do ‘dog biscuits’ for the café. I definitely think of the food as part of the Gallery as a whole, as another way of enhancing the guest experience.
I really enjoy Eastern European cuisine as it’s close to my heart. There are so many different expressions of a borscht, and thinking about that tradition reminds me of my mother and grandmother. I’m actually judging a borscht contest soon called ‘Not Your Baba’s Borscht’ as part of a charity fundraiser.’
I also look for food in the images of the shows. Once in a while there will be a still life with an eggplant in it that we can use. Inspiration can come from the work itself, the style, the title or the content. When we had our Surrealism exhibition we showed Magritte’s famous The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images) – the picture of the pipe with the text below it, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe (this is not pipe). So to complement that piece we served a chocolate dessert with the words ‘c’est ne pas à pied’ written in chocolate sauce below it. It means, this is not a pie.
Food can be very whimsical and tongue in cheek. It’s nice to be playful – when we brainstorm a show everyone in the kitchen will get together with a load of food magazines and swap jokes and banter whilst we come up with ideas.
Art is very sensual and so is food. Both are visual, visceral experiences that use colour, viscosity and textures. We want our guests to feel that relationship. We also know we have to cater to today’s palette and part of the challenge is picking dishes that are exciting but also have that popular appeal. “
Russian-inspired borscht featuring Ontario beets
Pan-fried stuffed egg with horseradish and caviar on a salad of baby arugula, baby beet greens, pumpernickel croutons and Dijon vinaigrette
Pan-seared steelhead trout fillet on buckwheat blini, with roasted baby carrots and lemon-chive sour cream sauce
Braised beef brisket with caraway rye bread pudding, choucroute and caramelized onion
Mushroom barley stuffed cabbage rolls with truffle cream sauce and roasted wild mushrooms
Apple charlotte russe with brandy Alexander sauce and brandied damson plums
Chocolate rum baba with poached pear
You can join us for dinner at FRANK Restaurant for a Chagall-inspired prix fixe menu. To order call FRANK Restaurant at 416 979 6688 or book online.
$65* Chagall & FRANK Restaurant Package:
- 3-course prix fixe dinner at FRANK
- 1 adult admission to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde
- 1 audio guide
Available October 18, 2011 through January 15, 2012.
Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 – 8:30 pm**
* Price includes taxes but excludes alcoholic beverages and gratuities. The FRANK prix fixe dinner is also available on its own for $50.
**Bookings subject to availability. Exhibition Viewing and Dinner must occur on the same night. Offer not transferable to other promotions.