Food: Bigger than the Plate at Victoria and Albert Museum, “examining various approaches to the future of food through contemporary design, art, and engineering”, opened on May 18 in London and is scheduled to run through October 20, 2019.
These Dairy Devils Are Making Cheese From Celebrities’ Bacteria
by Rohini Chaki
MAY 14, 2019
Aged, ripe, and not for consumption.
ON MAY 18, A TEAM of renegade cheesemakers will showcase some very outré cheese at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s forthcoming exhibition, Food: Bigger than the Plate. No samplings of this cheese, which will be showcased in climate-controlled glass, shall be on offer. Which is just as well, since they have been made with bacteria from the bodies of British celebrities.
Alex James of the rock band Blur, Michelin-star chef Heston Blumenthal, former Great British Bake Off finalist and author Ruby Tandoh, the singer-songwriter Suggs, and the rapper Professor Green all volunteered their bodily bacteria for science. More specifically, a chef, a synthetic biologist, and a biodesigner turned their body swabs into starter culture for the five cheeses that make up the exhibit, named Selfmade.
Helene Steiner and Thomas Meany are the team behind Open Cell, a biotechnology research hub housed within 45 shipping containers in Shepherd’s Bush, London. Together with chef John Quilter, who goes by Food Busker, the human-cheese artisans have been maturing a cheshire cheese (from Alex James), a comté (Heston Blumenthal), a mozzarella (Professor Green), a Stilton (Ruby Tandoh), and a Cheddar (Suggs). All five cheeses are maturing at the Open Cell lab, and will continue to age at the V&A’s Food exhibition, one of 70 exhibits examining various approaches to the future of food through contemporary design, art, and engineering.
The Selfmade team has launched a Youtube series to promote and explain the project, whose first episode aired on May 11, on Food Busker’s channel. In it, Professor Green gamely declares, “I hate cheese, but I’m here to be made into one.”