There’s this new thing on the block, and it’s all about mixing food and “experience”. And that’s exactly what Pimpinelle is about. The whole project’s been maturing in Aline’s head for the past two and a half years, and she’s being helped along by boyfriend Pierre-Philippe, who’s also the graphic designer behind the store’s identity. As a graphic designer who has always been interested in the process behind projects, I talked a little bit about it with Pierre-Philippe, one half of La Villa Hermosa, a graphic design studio in Brussels.

The nice thing, he said, about this long term relationship (the work one, that is) was that this time, the graphic design work didn’t come at the last moment. It wasn’t an after-thought, a dirty task to be fitted in at the end of the work on the concept of the shop. It was really part of the concept from the beginning, along with finding the name of the shop (named after a spice used in cooking), finding the appropriate place to set up, gathering the whole collection and, of course, finding a way to communicate the activities Aline will busy herself with.

Pierre-Philippe was so intensly involved in the project that he found it difficult to stand back and see the whole picture. It was hard for him to have a fresh perspective on the accomplished work, which is why he chose to ask his partner in La Villa Hermosa, Lionel, some advice on the work in progress. Lionel helped set some boundaries on the themes, and a couple of months ago, they also got some fresh ideas from a collaboration with Benoit, another designer from school. The results, as you could see when hanging out at Pimpinelle, is a superposition of two universes, a traditional one with classical illustrations like the ones found in old dictionaries and encyclopedias, and another one with strong typography that anchors the shop in the contemporary era.

Contemporary is an excellent word to use here, because it’s often linked to art, and art is linked to the word “curator”…and “curator”, in turn is a fairly fitting description of what Aline does for Pimpinelle. She’s curating “things” to do with food. She’s responsible for acquisition, and makes decisions regarding what objects to collect (Pierre-Philippe prefers the word “collecting” than “curating”). She’ll also decide what kind of activities will be hosted in the gallery and she might even decide what people eat for lunch.

From the recent Kicktable project (one of the featured Startups from our recent Orange Album) to this new Executive Master in Food Design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels, the “Food Experience” is very popular right now. And, as we all know, artists are always one step ahead.

Some examples spring to mind: changing habits while inviting people to eat or drink in unusual places is already the domain of L’Escaut, an architecture studio that has, for many years now, hosted what they call The Open Pasta Dag. Every first Thursday of the month (the April one has just passed… sorry) they send, as the name suggests, an open invitation to come and meet new people around a bowl of spaghetti (cooked by them) and a bottle of wine (brought by you).

The London based studio Åbäke has also often mixed food, art, experiment and design. Rather than products, they design situations.

The outfit behind this particular project spoke once at a lecture about a dinner experimentation they hosted with furniture designer Martino Gamper, where he designed the chairs, tables and accessories and where “the placemat artwork was purchased and the food was served after the formal transaction… although the artwork was only considered complete once it had acquired the evidence of its use.”

Or another experiment where the forty participants, in exchange for a few euros, were invited for excellent food and great conversation with other interesting personalities, such as The Wire photographer, or someone from Berlin-based Lodown magazine, during a four-hour meal. Oh and they’re also the brains behind this French fashion and record label you may have heard about, Kitsune

Here at PLMD (pleaseletmedesign), we also had our own gastronomy experience. Every third Friday, we invited people to our studio to drink wine. The “Vindredi” was named when two Canadian designers visited us and told us that they were doing it in Winnipeg. It’s a mix of the french words “Vin” for wine and “Vendredi” for Friday (pronounced like “Vendredi” with the canadian-french accent). Perhaps we could make up something like “Frwineday” in English and start it up again..?

Then there’s the latest exhibition by Parisian photographer-slash-artist-(because-he’s-not-just-a-photographer-anymore) Thomas Mailaender that took place in an art space called La Cuisine. The artist assembled some pieces of work around the visual joke, photography and sculpture.

But we won’t mention Sophie Calle’s Chromatic Diet, you’ve probably already heard about that.

Some of these exhibitions and workshops on the subject of food ended up as a book, exactly the kind of book you could find at Pimpinelle.

If you follow her on Twitter and (coming soon) Pimpinelle’s website, you’ll hear about these literature and food workshops by Sophie Barthélémy. There’s art and food, but also real cooking classes with chefs and recreative outings for kids who can have fun… making piñatas!

A shop that offers more than just the traditional cookbook and a nice apron, thanks to Aline, curator.

Are you experienced?