How to best match the vivid color of that pepper just picked from a field beneath the backdrop of Mt. Kuchumaa? How can we prepare it to better savor all the deliciousness of its just-picked flavor and nutrients?
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the artistry of a painter can go hand in hand with the art of preparing a great meal. Farm to Table to Canvas is a new collaboration between The Ranch’s cooking school (La Cocina Que Canta) and our Artist in Residence, Jennifer Brandt. Most Wednesday evenings, with palette in hand and canvas before her, Jennifer translates the beauty of the day’s harvest from our farm Tres Estrellas into a colorful still life, while you cook with fellow guests to create a memorable feast.
I caught up with Jennifer recently to ask a few questions about this special evening of art-meets-food:
How did this evening, and the resulting series of paintings from Tres Estrellas, come about?
One of the exciting things about working at The Ranch is that we’re really encouraged to evolve, find new things to try, and contribute new ideas. I’ve been painting The Ranch landscapes for years and I’ll never run out of views there, but I love being here at the farm, Tres Estrellas, it’s such an extraordinary place. I wanted to bring some of that art here. Executive Chef Denise Roa is an artist in her own right, and she often says, ‘We eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouths.’ She’s into art and very supportive. I think it’s a magical process to watch a painting emerge from a blank canvas to the full illusion of reality. It’s quite a thrilling magic trick even for me, and I do it all the time. This gives people an opportunity to see that magic and bridge the world of art and food.
What’s the relationship between painting and food?
Guests can walk the rows of the farm and see a world of glorious, shining colors and light. We’re all using nature for inspiration and hoping to arrive at that level of glory. There have been periods of history during which artists were commissioned to paint portraits and little else, so portraiture dominates much of the art history canon.
But look beyond portraits and you’ll see fantastic landscapes and still-life paintings of food and fish and wine—the bounty, the feast, the beating heart of being human and in this world. When I paint a still life I’m immortalizing something that will be gone in a moment, and it reminds us that life is so brief, so precious. Why not capture it? In 100 years someone may look at such a painting and say, ‘Look. They enjoyed their meal!’
What makes painting during class special?
Walking the rows of vegetables, picking the food, then arriving at one of the most beautiful kitchens imaginable to be involved in the meal prep…that’s an amazing experience. Every new class creates a whole new family dining experience. Part of the joy is the lovely staff and the beautiful women who work here with such grace and love. Then to join each other and commune over such a wonderful feast we’ve all been able to help with is just divine.