There are few sights more satisfying for the colour lover than the counter of a well-stocked ice-cream parlour. The creamy pastels of pistachio and strawberry; the rich tones of chocolate and coffee; the impossible brights of bubblegum and juicy mango sorbet, all sat side by side. So imagine our delight when we got the chance to sponsor SCOOP: A Wonderful Ice Cream World, the latest immersive event by Bompas & Parr.
Masters of the multisensory and founders of the British Museum of Food, Bompas & Parr have worked with brands from Coca-Cola to Mercedes-Benz to create remarkable experiences on almost every continent. We asked Sam Bompas to give us the scoop on projects past, present and future.
01: How did the transition from jelly-makers to experience designers and consultants happen? Was it a natural progression?
We learnt all our skills at the knee of jelly. The challenges with jelly, namely you can’t make a jelly that is very big before it tears itself apart, prompted us to look at how all the senses could be addressed to create a powerful food experience. The tools and techniques we’d learnt in the realm of jelly were easily transferable to other foods such including drinks, ice-cream and the sultan of savour – sausages!
02: Creating something from nothing can be daunting – where do you start? Do you have a set process for each project?
Do the work before the brief arrives on your desk… A 24-hour turnaround is never daunting – Harry and I have been working on the solution for the last 35 years of our life!
03: You’ve shown us how you make food and drink an immersive experience in your incredible events, but what about at home?
Have a theme, a dress code, some live animals and armfuls of pyrotechnics and the rest will look after itself… Never neglect to hire a smoke machine.
04: What’s the most peculiar prop you’ve built (or found) for a project?
Looking up from my desk I can see the decapitated head of a model Iguanodon, once considered the most ferocious of dinosaurs, built for a recreation of the 1852 Iguanodon Banquet.
The original feast was hosted by Richard Owens, the man who coined the word ‘dinosaur’. The world’s leading palaeontologists shared a New Year’s Eve feast, dining in the belly of one of the largest of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs. Iguanodons were thought to be savage predators with a bellicose horn on their nose. Subsequent studies revealed the first excavators had mislocated the skeleton’s thumb.
Our recreation of the dinosaur hosted 2000 in its belly over the course of eight days. We could only fit the head in the studio!
05: What has been your most unexpected source of inspiration for an experience so far?
I’m partially deaf in my left ear. Many of the best ideas are developed after I mishear something and it is reinterpreted by the subconscious.
We also use the studio’s extensive library for inspiration. This runs the gamut from weird diet books such as What Would Jesus Eat to Cooking with Coolio and the complete works of John Waters.
06: Your multisensory installations are already pretty high-tech, but what would you like to see invented in the future that could take them to the next level?
1. True mixed reality that works in daylight where the digital world is indistinguishable from the world. This would break the bounds of creativity with the potential for unfettered narrative impact.
2. A vegetable-based gelling agent that is as functionally effective as gelatine. None of the plant or chemical alternatives such as agar-agar, carrageenan or sodium alginate come close to the glory and wonder of gelatine. This is the holy grail.
07: Finally, we have to ask… Favourite ice cream?
A marmalade ice-cream recipe that dates from 1694. Taste it from Conehenge, SCOOP’s ice-cream parlour, as you eat your way through history.
Daffodil ice cream is also a contender. The original recipe from 1750 would almost certainly have been poisonous. Happily, we’ve worked with skilled flavourists to hone a recipe with all the savour of the original, but none of the side-effects.
SCOOP: A Wonderful Ice Cream World is open until 30th September at the British Museum of Food, Gasholders London, Kings Cross. You can buy tickets here.