A few months back I was approached by Zach Kellum of Dundas West Gallery space The DepARTment to participate in an utterly fascinating project. I had met Zach previously whilst presenting wines for one of the Charlie’s Burgers dinner parties and he seemed like a thoroughly nice fellow. His proposition was to host a series of events based around the photographs and artifacts of a certain Mr Toni Harting and his wife Ria.
In the Summer of 1973, after coming into a modest inheritance, Toni (then 46) and Ria (then 30) decided to rent a VW Camper van and travel around some of the finest restaurants in France… “collecting” 30 Michelin stars in 20 days… hence the title of the exhibit. Toni, being a photographer, travelled with his camera and managed to take some of the most remarkable pictures throughout the trip.
One has to remember that things were so very far removed from today when it is commonplace in restaurants to see bloggers and others taking digital photos of their food and the like. Saying that, even today I would imagine that it would still be seen as being rather gauche to take photos in the grandest of French Michelin 3-Star restaurants? Many of Toni’s photographs look as if they have been taken covertly… no mean feat when one considers the size of a 35mm camera back in 1973. But it’s not only the pictures taken inside these hallowed houses of gastronomy that shine.It is also the many pictures that Toni took of their travels across France, living simply from the back of the VW Camper… it is the juxtaposition of these images with the restaurant ones that really makes the exhibit for me.
There is a certain humility that comes through in so many of the shots that I simply adore.
Alongside the photographs are all of the restaurant menus that the Hartings collected from their travels. When Zach first showed these to me I remember sitting there in sheer wonderment as I pored over the menus of Maxim’s, Paul Bocuse, La Pyramide, and L’Oasis. It was around these menus that we decided to plan a series of 4 events, where local Chefs would replicate many of the dishes from these menus and I would select a suitable wine to accompany. Zach had assembled a dream team to put together these events: Arlene “Force Of Nature” Stein from Hart House, Malcolm Jolley of Good Food Media, the illustious Greg Bolton of Pantry and my bad self. Along with Chefs Jamie Kennnedy, Eric Walker (Pantry), Bertrand Alépée and Jason Inniss (Amuse Bouche), Tawfik Shehata (Vertical) and John Lee (Chippy`s), and Donna Dooher (Mildred`s Temple Kitchen) we presented a selection of hors d’oeuvres-size replications of a multitude of 1973 menu items to an enraptured audience… saying that, there is one more to go tomorrow night! Donna’s evening is completely sold out and I am very much looking forward to being there later to say congratulations to everyone involved.
I have quite a few more pictures from the events in a Flickr set here.