Dishes garnished with bright (and Instagram-friendly) flowers aren't unusual, but a dinner filled with blooms and petals is another thing altogether.
Bloodwood chef Claire van Vuuren and artists Anna McMahon and Sarah Ryan have teamed up for The Floral Gift, on tonight, March 11, at MOP Projects in Chippendale as part of Art Month.
McMahon and Ryan first staged The Floral Gift at Open Source Gallery, New York, during the winter of 2014, as part of the venue's annual soup kitchen series.
"The only thing that went wrong was that it was very cold, so we had to wear all of our jackets and layers and Sarah's scarf caught on fire from the candles on the table!" says McMahon.
For that event, the pair made a pineapple soup spiced with curry leaves and peppercorns, hand-drew flowers on placemats for guests to take home and composed bouquets with specific floral meanings as additional gifts.
The artists - who both grew up in Toowoomba, where the annual Carnival of Flowers is staged - have been preparing for tonight's event for months, and have been pressing flowers since January for The Floral Gift's table centrepiece.
Chef van Vuuren, meanwhile, has been studying blossoms and leaves. "The ba wong flower is one of my favourites," she says. "Only blooming at night for one day of the year, I think the flavour is very distinct and interesting, very similar to a globe artichoke."
And for the dinner, she's going beyond just garnishing dishes with petals to please the eye.
"Flowers are going to be braised, deep fried, rehydrated, pounded, sliced and infused during the meal."
Given how weather-dependent and fragile flowers can be, sourcing them for the event has been tricky. The chef is sourcing flowers from dried buds, Sunrise Asian, friends, community gardens - she's even scoured the local train tracks.
While she's used to working in the kitchen, collaborating with visual artists has been "great", she says.
"There is so much crossover between cooking and art," she adds. "Anna and Sarah are concerned about the tiny details - like names and stories behind each flower, the conversation that will take place at the table - rather than just the experience on the palate. I think we create a very good team, balancing out each element very well. Working with artists means that there is no traditional and technical cooking elements that will shape a dish, if it's tasting and looking great, it gets into the meal."
The Floral Gift, MOP Projects, 2/39 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale, artmonthsydney.com.au