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Interview with Sam Bompas of Bompas and Parr

24 September 2015 | Imogen Greenberg

The Future of Food is the last in a series of monthly debates organised by Borough Market as part of their year-long 1000th anniversary celebrations. Panellists include Food Policy Professor Tim Lang, writer and brand analyst Victoria Loomes, environmentally conscious restaurateur Douglas McMaster and Sam Bompas, who we interview here. Sam is one half of Bompas & Parr, a creative studio for ‘immersive flavour-based experiences’.

London Calling: You’re part of the Future of Food talk at Borough Market. Why did you want to want to be involved and what do you find really interesting about the project and thinking about the future of food?

Sam Bompas: I guess that Bompas and Parr has spent the last eight years trying to conceptualise new ways for people to dine, often working with a lot of historical research, [for example] The Savoy gondola banquets, where they flooded the Savoy, held the banquet on a gondola serenaded by the leading tenor of the day and the dessert came in on the back of a baby elephant. [We’re] thinking about how do we do that with modern technology, pushing everything from drones to 3D printing and rapid prototyping.

LC: Bompas & Parr puts on incredible food events. Do you think food experiences are changing and how will they change in the future?

SB: Chefs will spend literally weeks working on a single dish and somebody will gobble it down in minutes. One of the things we were interested in was moving the culinary experience into other areas - the performance, the theatre, the set design - which all have a massive impact on your sense of taste anyway. I’m the sort of person who likes food of the Edwardian era: sugar, fat and salt, which tastes delicious - although probably not every day...

LC: Why do you think immersive food experiences are so effective and why do you think people enjoy them so much?

SB: When you go to see a movie or something like that, it’s very visual, it’s very sonically stimulating but it doesn’t go beyond it. Food of course is inherently incredibly multisensory but also it comes with more than that... it comes with this wonderful story, this wonderful ritual that’s long developed over our cultural history and there’s this really great rhythm that you get into with a meal. Of course there’s a real risk there, if you overstep the mark and do something that is bad taste... or a bad taste in your mouth!

LC: Why do you think your latest event, Alcoholic Architecture has been so popular?

SB: Britons have a wonderful relationship with alcohol that we’ve cultivated over thousands of years. [This project is a] rather unusual and special opportunity that certainly the British psyche is very excited by.

LC: Where did the inspiration for it come from?

Well I guess actually from our original thing, which was jelly. So we realised after making tens of thousands of jellies that what we were doing was taking something that was totally liquid - a cocktail - and turning it into something solid. We wondered what would happen if we took that same liquid and made it gaseous. That was a challenge, and to do it on a grand scale so that it was really impressive.

LC: Obviously Bompas and Parr does things differently to restaurants. Do you have a favourite London restaurant?

SB: My favourite probably is Zucca on Bermondsey Street which is a really raging Italian. It's enormously edible.

LC: Do you cook a lot yourselves? Do you have a passion for food or do you just love creating experiences?

SB: Harry cooks a lot... he’s very good. Whenever I have a dinner party I’ll always invite him - probably about an hour early - and he takes the helm.

The Future of Food takes place on Tuesday 29th September. For more information, see website.

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