Special Project | 2018

Nimble Foods for Climate Chaos

“Nimble Foods for Climate Chaos” is a cross-disciplinary collaboration between environmental artist and NYU faculty member Marina Zurkow, Los Angeles chef duo Hank and Bean, and LENS faculty director Allison Carruth to explore the cultural and environmental conditions that would support sustainable food systems.

The project brings immersive / public art and storytelling together with culinary experimentation and food science to prototype green snacks for the future. These snacks will be debuted through public “tasting” events in 2018-2019 that will explore the questions: what comes after farm-to-table cuisine? what might we eat in the future? and how might chefs and artists lead the way toward nimble, ethical, and just food systems? 

The collaboration makes the UCLA campus and public sites around Los Angeles a testing ground for Zurkow’s and Hank and Bean’s ongoing project Making the Best of It, an umbrella concept for site-specific mobile food units featuring snacks prepared from edible species that are indicators of disruptive climate change impacts. In Phase I of the project, our team will prototype a suite of bodega-bound snacks made of carefully sourced jellyfish. The snacks will feature jerky, instant soups, noodles, cookies, and jellies. We will then implement a series of tastings of the snacks at public sites that will engage communities in conversations about the risks of climate chaos, the structure of conventional food systems, and the possibilities for short-term food innovations. In our next phase, the team will seek funding to develop a street-ready mobile food service unit for Los Angeles publics—comprised of an electric mini-truck and a close-range drone that will deliver the snacks. This duo of the mini-truck and drone will be designed to resemble an undersea diving vessel and to allude to the silent, floating quality of jellyfish.

Relatively unchanged since the Pre-Cambrian era, jellyfish today are significant to fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific as well as to food markets and culinary traditions in Japan, Korea, China, and across Southeast Asia. They are tasteless, but very crunchy with an unusual mouth feel, and lend themselves to diverse dishes and techniques. Given their drifts and blooms, jellyfish are not reliable seasonally, raising provocative questions about how to supplement traditional diets with foraging in the context of climate change. Making the Best of It aims to raise awareness about both the precarity and sustainability of existent fisheries in the context of twenty-first-century food systems.

Core Team:

Allison Carruth is Director of the UCLA Lab for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) and a Associate Professor at UCLA in English and the Institute for Society and Genetics. Professor Carruth conducts research on innovation in food sustainability across the arts, sciences, and culinary fields.

Artist Marina Zurkow uses life science materials, social structures, and technologies to foster intimate connections between people and non-human agents. Recent solo exhibitions include bitforms gallery in New York and Chronus Art Center, Shanghai. Her work has also been featured at Smithsonian American Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of the Moving Image, New York; Ars Electronica, Austria; and Sundance Film Festival, Utah; among others. Zurkow is a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow. She is on faculty at NYU and lives in Brooklyn.

Chef Henry Fischer of Vendome (Germany), Noma (Copenhagen), Animal Group (LA, CA), The Cultural Ministry of Health and Culinary Education (Seoul, Kyoto, Osaka & Tokyo) and now Hank and Bean (LA), brings his international culinary talents to the issue of potential futures for Southern California cuisine.

Chef Anna Rose Hopkins is a recurring collaborator of Marina Zurkow.  Past conceptual food happenings include: “Eat Like What You Eat” with Tak Cheung (Brooklyn), “Sun:Adjacent” with Cecile B Evans (Zurich), “Outside the Work: A tasting of Hydrocarbons and Geological Time” with Marina Zurkow (Boston and Houston) and most recently “Port Capa” with Dany Naierman (PST LA/LA: an initiative of the Getty). She is now chef and partner at Hank and Bean.