by Kriston Capps
Elaine Tin Nyo’s work looks good enough to eat. A member of dBfoundation, she and some other members of this anything-goes artist collective were invited to take on the cafe area of the Phillips Collection here in the District. For her part, Tin Nyo devised a challenge. She’d present something not meant to be eaten. It would then be up to Jordan Lichman, former chef for the Inn at Little Washington and current executive chef for On the Fly — which operates the Phillips cafe as well as those grasshopper-looking smartkarts you see around town — to take her design object and translate it into something cafe consumable.
Here you see a wheel of Tête de Moine and, in the foreground, its doppelgänger. All that’s missing from the clone is the girolle, a scraper arm attached to an axle that’s put through the center of the cheese (as you see on the far wheel). The crank operation of the girolle is responsible for those thin, delicate cheese frills pictured. The foregrounded wheel, of course, is no cheese at all: Rather, that’s a multilayer almond cake with waffle crisp.
Now, as an art project this is clever for a couple reasons. For the challenge, Tin Nyo presented an object that actually is food: a wheel of cheese. It’s just not something you’d order at a cafe when you’re feeling peckish. The Tête de Moine is a readymade, a prefab good that she’s changed by context. With its girolle and geometry, the wheel even looks like a detail out of Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.
But we are here to talk about the food! So I’d say that this is an opportunity to try something off the wall by Lichman — planned by Lichman, if not executed by him each day — while you’re visiting the museum.