Last year for my birthday, I booked a table at Noma in Copenhagen. Due to a few changes of plan some of the original members of my party pulled out and I threw an open invite out on twitter for any interested followers to join me. One of those to take me up on the chance to eat at 'the worlds best restaurant' was a lovely lady called Henrietta Graham. We had followed each other on twitter for a while, with little previous interaction, and I must confess that I was unaware of her abundant talent until we chatted over our incredible dinner.
It transpires that Hen is a hugely talented artist of many years experience, who just happens to have a passion for painting chefs in their kitchens. This passion has led to the inception of a planned book celebrating some of the finest chefs in the country, with images of chefs such as Michel Roux jnr, Raymond Blanc, Andrew Fairlie, Sat Bains, Paul Ainsworth, Pierre Koffmann and the notoriously private Brett Graham to name just a handful. The stature of some of the chefs involved highlights just how respected and connected Hen has become, with many of them only agreeing after seeing the work she has created so far.
Since our meal at Noma, I have been fortunate enough to become good friends with Hen and her husband Tim (who is also a fantastic artist), and have been to her studio in Cornwall and seen some of the paintings of chefs which will be going into the book, and to my admittedly untrained eye, they are all spectacular, really capturing the essence and character of the person, as well as the physical and visual representations of them.
Take the photo below, of Hen putting finishing touches to a large painting of Sat in his kitchen, working on the pass with some of his team. There is no posed shot of a vain chef looking pristine in his whites, but an accurate depiction of an involved culinary architect focusing his attention on his staff, and making sure they carry out his dishes as they should be.
As a person, Sat is a character, and also very driven to achieve and I feel this is portrayed in the painting of him. There is more than a hint of him in as much as the technique is well executed, with an eye on the avant garde use of texture and ingredient/colour.
As I say, I'm no artist and my knowledge in this field is limited, but the chefs chosen to be in this book, and the text about them ( which is being co-written by Elizabeth Auerbach ) makes this project very exciting, and I can't wait for it to be finished and published. Henrietta is only just half way through the paintings, so it will be at least two years until its on bookshelves, but it is certainly a title to look out for.
follow Henrietta on twitter here