Craig Thornton and Matthew Bone inside Cut Your Teeth
Craig Thornton was bored with restaurants. Matthew Bone was bored with art galleries. When the chef and the artist joined forces, they came up with Cut Your Teeth, an interactive art and food experience.
Cut Your Teeth, in its most recent incarnation, is a warehouse dinner party that just ended a six-week run in Los Angeles. Like an old school rave, attendees sought out the semi-secret location on an industrial-leaning block in the city. Unlike those old underground parties, guests were limited to a small handful of people for each seating and just about everyone arrived with a bottle of wine in hand. It's the classiest experience one could have inside a warehouse. It's also a fleeting one.
"It's a sandcastle," says Bone. "This ephemeral feeling is the most important thing that you can have."
Inside the space.
Previously, the two had collaborated on Cut Your Teeth last fall for a sold out, two-week stint at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Thornton, who has been cooking for 12 years, was already known for Wolvesmouth, a dinner party he throws in various secret locations. Bone has shown at spots like CoproGallery and La Luz de Jesus. Despite their different fields, they share a similar aesthetic. They worked instinctively, without notes, to build the environment for the event. Together, Thornton and Bone have turned the warehouse into a forest that shifts seasons as viewers turn corners. Large and small taxidermy animals hide amongst thick, summer leaves or pop out out of snowy, winter scenes. Lights glow blue and gold. "They kind of match the color of the food," Thornton says of the lights.
Though they intentionally created spots within the space that would attract smart phone cameras, Thornton and Bone wanted to create something that you have to experience IRL. You can favorite the photos on Instagram or Twitter or Tumblr but Cut Your Teeth is still something that must be lived. It's an experiment in awkward situations. You're part of a very small group, most of whom are strangers, in an unfamiliar setting. For the next few hours, you'll share a nine-course meal at a communal table. At some point, you have to be social. You might find out that the person across from you relocated to L.A. from New York a few months ago or the person next to you is celebrating a milestone birthday.
The courses come out in quick succession. You don't know what you will eat until Thornton explains the dish in front of you. There's a vegetarian option and it's pretty similar to the regular meal, just with substitutions for the meat. Cauliflower stands in for venison. Jicama takes the place of crab. For the first course, we're instructed to eat with our hands. It's primal chic.
One of the courses.
They work with a definitive beginning and end for the installation. "As long as we have a framework, it can be like jazz and we can just kind of improvise the entire space," says Bone. Thornton's first and last dishes correspond with paintings by his partner while in the middle, he veers off into a meal similar to Wolvesmouth parties. Still, there's a connection between the food and the environment. Berries appear in several dishes. Venison and rabbit are also part of the feast. They are meals reminiscent of a forest and the colors in the dishes are coordinated with those found in the paintings. The greens and browns of the dishes are punctuated by squirts of purple, red and blue.
The first of two desserts is the Instagrammable highlight of the night. Underneath Bone's painting of a woman dripping in honey is a table filled with honeycomb-shaped bowls designed by Thornton. Inside each bowl is a dessert made from honey, dairy and fruit. Still, that isn't the end of the party. The second dessert -- pistachio cake served on an ice-trimmed plate -- comes with a set of goggles. After everyone finishes eating, we head to a corner filled with blue light, fog and fake snow sprinkling from the ceiling. One by one, we throw our plates at the wall. It's "a release," Thornton explains -- an "exclamation point" at the end of a nine-course meal.
Our broken plates.
Next up for the duo is Ceremony -- named for the Joy Division/New Order song -- which will be a larger-scale party. "It's also about the ceremony of going to a restaurant, the ceremony of going to an art opening, the ceremony of going to a club," Bone says. The event will feature an impressive roster of artists, with Shepard Fairey, Clive Barker and Alex Pardee amongst them. Jeremy Fox (Rustic Canyon) and Ori Menashe (Bestia) will join Thornton in the kitchen. "Create and curate," is how Thornton describes the dinner. "We're creating part of it, but we're also curating a larger field of professionals." They plan on serving 300 people per day for the two-day event.
Ceremony takes place on June 13 and 14 and is already sold out.