J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam reportedly has a pretty top-notch cafeteria. And now the agency is taking its passion for food to a somewhat disquieting new level.
Robbie Postma, the agency’s chef (yes, they have a chef), and Robert Harrison, a visual designer who loves photography, just completed a project called MENU, in which they sourced ingredients for a meal. And then they served the food in one of the most creative ways they could imagine—on Postma’s face.
Harrison photographed the results, and the edgy, somewhat disturbing photos will be featured at the professional photography event SHOOT Amsterdam on April 3.
The unbranded passion project “takes the viewer back to the origin of a menu,” JWT says. “Through visual imagination and culinary flair, they evoke every step of a fine dining experience, but rather than focusing on the final, finessed dishes, MENU makes the raw, unprocessed ingredients the heroes. Served on the closest place you can get to a chef’s mind: on his face.”
Every single piece of food was added by hand, without any digital trickery. “MENU is hand-crafted. Just like the best food,” JWT says. The project took a year to complete, “and each image is the result of a lengthy process of research, testing of materials, preparation, art direction, planning and of course experimenting—with most shots taking sometimes up to nine hours to prepare,” the agency adds.
Check out the photos below, along with descriptions of the ingredients.
Playing with different shapes and colors.
Ingredients: Varieties of carrots, radish and courgette.
Serving just enough to keep the guest gasping for more.
Ingredients: Octopus ink, lobster, mussels, mackerel skin, octopus suckles, sea urchin, razor clams
Carefully pairing the food with the right drink to create an explosion of taste.
Ingredients: Glass & red wine
Using different cooking techniques
Ingredients: Charcoal, smoke, aged prime rib
Combining flavors but keeping them identifiable
Ingredients: Vanilla, rock salt, star anise, coriander seeds, nutmeg, mace, white pepper, red peppers, cardamom, cinnamon, curry powder
Paying attention to detail and balance.
Ingredients: Black rice, white rice, yellow peas, Borlotti beans, quinoa, wheat
Building up to a climax.
Ingredients: White chocolate, dark chocolate, raspberries
Using one single ingredient in different variations.
Ingredient: Coffee beans
The attention to detail is astonishing. This, of course, reflects well on the agency, which has been in the spotlight over the past year due to another remarkably detailed project—The Next Rembrandt.
“A good menu is a story with its own narrative arc,” Postma says. “That’s what we’ve tried to recreate in this project: We deconstructed a traditional menu into all its separate elements and ingredients and reconstructed it in a disruptive way—using my own face as the canvas to present our very own ‘MENU.’ This project, in its essence, is about the quest for perfection and represents the importance of taking enormous amount of time and attention to create something beautiful.”
“The devil is in the detail, and that’s something we really took to heart when shooting the photography,” Harrison adds. “Each single ingredient was painstakingly hand-placed onto the face, resulting in literally hours of preparation for each shot. For us it was important to work in a very organic way, shoot everything in camera and use no digital manipulation at all. This attention to detail and technique, combined with the unexpected scenarios—I guess some would say downright disturbing images—is what has this such a compelling project to work on.”
Here’s a video about the project:
Executive creative director Bas Korsten, whom we spoke to at length for this story aboutThe Next Rembrandt, his masterful A.I. project for ING bank, said MENU perfectly captures what JWT Amsterdam is all about.
“We love spending some of our creative energy disrupting the traditional client brief structure by coming up with stuff that nobody’s asked for,” he says. “Because it helps us to define ourselves. To take us to places we’ve never been before. Rob and Robbie’s project is exemplary of that. Two guys who just took an idea and ran with it. I love it.”
Concept and art direction – Robert Harrison and Robbie Postma
Production – Robert Harrison and Robbie Postma
Photography – Robert Harrison
Lightning – Robert Harrison and Nick Kroone
Makeup – Robert Harrison and Robbie Postma
PR Director Jessica Hartley
Copy – Robbie Postma and Nick Bruckman
Video – Tim Arnold
Sound – Studio Alfred Klaassen
PR assistance – Quincy van Kampen, Sacha Sernets
Help on set – Nick Kroone, Axel Eerbeek, Danielle Pandt, Habib Rahmani, Randell Thomas,
Studio facility – J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam
Underwater gear – Onderwaterhuis.nl, Ronald Mica, Elisah Boektje
Swiming pool facility – van Tongeren Family
Extra kitchen facility – Cafe Modern Amsterdam
Coffee beans supply – Jeroen Brugman (Smit & Dorlas koffiebranders)
Agency: J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam