Bompas & Parr
Bompas and Parr are more than just a ‘creative food agency’ – they’re gastronomic geniuses, whose culinary experiments and installations are truly pushing the boundaries and wowing the jet set party scene, reveals Ali Catterall.
One autumn day in 2010 the residents of Queensway, West London woke up to something rather marvellous on their doorstep. Down in Whiteley’s shopping centre a pair of Old Etonians were launching something previously only dreamt up by Roald Dahl for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: a gum that changes its flavour as you chew. Willy Wonka’s Three Course Dinner Chewing Gum was just an experimental and very unstable prototype – as poor Violet Beauregarde discovered to her cost. Yet by using edible, microscopic capsules called colloidosomes, that release different flavours at various stages of the chewing process (in this case, strawberry, then chocolate), these real-life “architectural foodsmiths” had achieved something after three years of intensive lab research that even the great Wonka hadn’t managed to crack: a genuine gastronomic miracle.
The Borough-based boffins in question, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, had form with this sort of thing. The previous year they’d rustled up some special scratch-and-sniff cards to accompany an outdoor screening of Gregory's Girl in Edinburgh's Festival Square – odours included teenage aftershave and essence of sweaty changing room. But the days when they’d be holding ‘Sausage Séances’, sending coffee beans into space or filling ancient monasteries with vapourised alcohol so that guests could absorb it through their eyes, skin and lungs, were still to come.
The story begins during the summer of 2007, when the former childhood pals launched their ‘jellymongering’ design studio. “We wanted to do something fun with jelly at Borough Market,” said Parr, “but we couldn't afford any moulds, so we decided to make our own.” They were soon creating glow-in-the-dark varieties and edible, wobbling skylines, “operating in the space between food and architecture”. Since then they’ve become celebrated as one of the most exciting creative agencies on the planet (not to mention the ‘party caterers’ of choice), cooking up immersive installations, artworks and exhibitions in their desire to provide extraordinary experiences that involve all the senses. There’s method in this madness, and a philosophical intent: how is food altered by presentation, synaesthesia and context? This is the kind of stuff that fascinates them – and the art world: in 2009, the Independent named them as one of the ‘15 people [sic] who will define the future of art in Britain’.
These days HNW party throwing clients and brands from Disney and Selfridges to Coca-Cola and Mercedes regularly call on the duo and their 20-strong team that includes designers, cooks and specialised technicians, along with an external staff of structural engineers, scientists and psychologists to help realise these boundary-breaking visions. And while the likes of the Barbican and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art showcase their work, they’ve also just opened their very own British Museum of Food in London’s King’s Cross, “the world’s first cultural institution exclusively dedicated to food and drink”. Their first exhibition ‘Scoop: A Wonderful Ice Cream World’ has glow-in-the-dark ice cream too. Made out of jellyfish. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, these boys go one better.
This feature first appeared in Luxury Plus