At El Bulli, the now-closed Spanish restaurant where chef Ferran Adrià achieved three Michelin stars with his molecular cuisine, diners may have been served gazpacho with a spoon that had a basil leaf clipped to it.
El Bulli’s clothespin spoon is one of more than 200 pieces that will be on display Saturday through Dec. 15 at the Moore Building in Miami’s Design District. The spoon, designed to stimulate a diner’s sense of smell as well as taste, also is one of architect and exhibit curator Juli Capella’s top three items from Tapas: Spanish Design for Food.
“Before Ferran, chefs would choose plates and cutlery from what was already available, but he was one of the first to bring a designer into his kitchen to create new elements,” Capella said last week in a phone interview from his home in Barcelona. “For me, that is what we are trying to show in Tapas, how creative people can take very standard, very traditional products and make them more useful and unique and fun.”
With more than 8,000 square feet of displays, Tapas is about more than spoons. The free exhibit, presented by Acción Cultural Española, shows how design drives Spanish cooking, Capella said.
The exhibit is divided into three sections: kitchen, table and meal. All of the pieces were made in Spain or created by Spanish designers.
The kitchen display includes tools used for making food. One is the cheeky Crumbs-Birds. The piece by design firm Curro Claret is a wooden cutting board with holes that empty crumbs down a funnel and into a bird feeder. It’s also one of Capella’s favorites.
“Spanish design, like Spanish culture, is about fun, and this speaks to that,” he said. “The message is, ‘Share your food to feed another.’ It’s a friendly object.”
The table area has pieces like Panpaati, a set of chairs and a table made from bread. Designer Enoc Armengol encourages eating his art — after you’ve paid for it.
The meal section includes food-design pieces like the stainless steel El Bulli clothespin spoon, a collaboration between Adrià and designer Luki Huber that’s available for retail purchase for about $40 a spoon.
The section also highlights traditional Spanish dishes like paella and churros along with newer creations like spherified liquid olives and edible ink. (Pieces of paper printed with inks flavored like Galician-style octopus or lamb kidneys with sherry will be part of an interactive performance called Eat You, Eat Me by Spanish artist Miralda during an opening reception Saturday night.)
Capella also picked 100 bottles of Spanish wines for display in the middle of the exhibit.
“We chose them not because of the quality of the wines — which I’m sure is also good, mainly — but for the beauty and uniqueness of the labels,” he said.
A video presentation showcases interior-design elements from Mugaritz, El Celler de Can Roca and other top Spanish restaurants.
Miami marks the first U.S. stop for Tapas, which premiered last month in Tokyo during that city’s Designers Week. Exhibit organizers wanted the Miami visit to fall during Art Basel Miami and to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León’s arrival in Florida.
“This new, international, traveling cultural experience aims to share its design for food with the international art and design influencers converging in Miami,” said Elvira Marco, CEO of Acción Cultural Española.
Tapas has tapped three James Beard Award-winning chefs to give public lectures about their perspectives on food and design during the show’s run. Miami’s Michelle Bernstein (Michy’s, Crumb on Parchment) is scheduled to talk Nov. 26.
“I think about design in not only the presentation of my dishes but also in the mouth feel and flavor,” Bernstein said.
“When I conceptualize, I try and imagine first and foremost what flavors are fun and new variations, but also what really works on the palate. Next comes the visual. … The hard part is sharing that visualization and interpretation with staff, so then they can consistently prepare the dish.”
In addition to events at the Moore Building, Miami’s Centro Cultural Español will host food-related film screenings and culinary-inspired local art exhibits at its headquarters at 1490 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Visit the center’s website, ccemiami.org, for details.