Mike Knowlden is a chef with a difference. By focusing on that fascinating space where food and culture meet, he’s bringing people together in a way that nurtures creativity, breaks down barriers and creates new connections.
Name: Mike Knowlden
Can you tell us a little bit about your own practice?
I work creatively with food at the meeting point of cooking and the arts. In the kitchen, I mostly bake and make desserts.
Most of my work is with the food design studio that I co-founded (Blanch & Shock). We create meals and serve them whilst hosting a related cultural discussion, from the Norman invasion to the history of refrigeration, or the working of the brain.
Food is a great subject matter and also a great medium to work in because it is both universal (we all have to eat) and very particular (if you like to cook, the way you make a dish can be a strong part of your identity).
Food allows us to come together to celebrate our similarities and differences. I’m currently trying to do more projects that use food and recipes to celebrate the cultural diversity of the UK.
What’s been your favourite creative experience of the past 12 months?
Rather than one particular project or event, it has been the opening of our test kitchen at Blanch & Shock.
After moving around from site to site for many years, in 2018 we were finally able to put down roots in Camberwell, London. Our new kitchen allows us to do our food research and development, whilst also having space for a few tables of diners for special events like dinners, tastings and workshops.
This year we also have a program of guest events lined up. Having this home has allowed us to develop our practice and to engage with lots more people. As well as the public events we can now set up more long-term food experiments such as making miso and garums which take a number of weeks at constant temperatures to complete.
Which Suffolk Artlink projects have you worked on to date?
Around the Table at the Kirkley Centre in Lowestoft. I collaborated with the photographer, Carô Gervay (https://www.carolinegervay.com/) and visual artist, Kasia Don-Daniel to run two workshops in which we cooked with the local fish caught and smoked in Lowestoft and made cyanotype images that acted as recipes to illustrate the food we made.
We had great people involved in the workshops, many of whom had a personal connection to the maritime past and present of Lowestoft and it was great to hear their stories and learn about the local area.
How has working with Suffolk Artlink influenced your work?
Having the chance to work on Around the Table has helped me develop how I think about collaborative workshops. The sessions were really friendly and productive and I hope that everyone involved enjoyed them as much as I did. The format that Carô and I came up with of illustrating the food with visual recipes was a new one for us, and something that we would like to repeat with new recipes in future. We also aimed to devise content for the workshops that reflected the local area and that is something that I would definitely try to do again.
How would you describe Suffolk Artlink in 3 words?
Inspiring, supportive, collaborative
For further information: www.blanchandshock.com