Four days in late November, every evening, Suzanne Bernhardt and Chef Thor invite guests to a journey through various “earths”: from hardened rock, grainy sand, molten “lava” to burnt clay, crumbly stone and blazing “plastic”. At the end of each night, everyone walks away with belly full of nutrition, and a soul enriching experience that connects one another and them with the ground under their feet.
-drawings by Suzanne, sketching up dishes for Bodemdrang-
Each day around noon, the kitchen starts buzzing with heat, aromatic herbs and chickpeas blending into a green bed waiting to be seeded. People pacing back and forth holding checklists are building up the garden of earthly delight. Chinese calligraphy brushes collected, long spoons laid out on the table waiting to be picked up and distributed. Restaurant tables were put together to form a long line, laid on top, two layers of colored paper that serve as table cloth. Not far outside, firewood are being stacked up, the waterfront stage is just hours away from being lit up by volcanic heat. Into the barn, behind shut doors and black curtain, water bowls standing await, next to which, empty rubbing gloves are suggesting action.
-mis en place for Bodemdrang-
-hot steaming, ready for action-
At 7pm, Suzanne Bernhardt, in her brick red working suit, lights the fire, contained in the bottom of a metal barrel, topped with a special lid, the barrel becomes a working kiln for ceramic burning. She carefully controls the gas valve to make sure the temperature reaches 1000 degree, once the color fixates on a bright orange glow, she knows it is ready. In the meanwhile, the Stone Mind was being set up by Thor and his teams. Various hot steaming clay encased root vegetables, roasted spiced celeriac were being laid on the table. There are calligraphy brushes for each seat, waiting to be picked up. Two kinds of inks come in petri dishes, “stones” are scattered around a white sandy line in the middle of the table. Lights dimmed, the first guests are arriving through the door.
-Suzanne's ceramic kiln-
Coming from the chill wintery outside, we have a warm welcome await for you. In the “plant room”, two people dressed in long khaki overalls are standing in between our two giant fishtail palms. The bar has selected a few appetizer drinks for this social moment before the dinner officially starts. Crowds start to gather, chatters and clicks of the glasses are announcing a cheerful evening. Seizing the moment, one staff in Khaki suit walks past the crowd into the room next door—the “Haeckel Room”. He holds a pot of warm broth, and lay it on top of a metal table, next to it, a pile of earth and some empty glass jars. Some curious observant eyes caught him, they came to inquire about the broth. Soon, everyone starts lining in front the stand, where the broth is being poured into each glass jar and each guest is instructed to take a scoop of the heilaarde into their jar. Drink it while its hot!
-Our "Khaki" team serving the warm welcome-
-Guest scooping heilaarde with Suzanne's handmade finger spoon-
The earthy umami from mushrooms in the broth and heilaarde suggests the theme of the night—earth. While the warmth and taste linger, Suzanne came standing in front of the crowd. She explains that drinking a mixture of local soil can give good health, and “We invite you to this groundbreaking journey with us tonight…” opens the door to the first course in the restaurant: The Stone Mind.
-Stone mind, the table is set-
Calligraphy brushes, ink petri dishes, salt crystal line that imitates the karesansui in Japanese Zen gardens, guests are invited to a table of exploration and contemplation. One shall not be afraid of getting ones hands dirty, break through the clay, smash, splash and …. Everyone’s face were glowing with youthful (excitement), “ look mine is a beet, let me see what is yours!” someone says to her partner holding a cracked open clay stone, where ruby red is shining through. Another is too busy dipping the ink sauce to make a perfect picture on his clay stone to search for the edible part that is hidden inside. Aluminium foil wraps another treat: cumin, fennel spiced celeriac that are cleverly paired with sharp citrus and fresh mint. Unwrapping, unravelling the hidden treasures point out our direction of investigation: going deep, inside. Again, Suzanne invites the guest to put down their brushes and join her into the wide open, where she and her colleagues are going to give a Raku ceremony on our water front stage.
-guest breaking open "stones"
-drawing with edible ink-
Gathering around the fire, guests’ gaze focused onto the orange glowing metal barrel. With Suzanne’s sign, the lid comes off, She and her colleagues starting to clamp bowl-shaped clay pieces into the barrel. Their faces are lit by the heat—1000 degrees, they action slow and concentrated. That kind of focus draw the audiences closer, as if all sharing the same breath. After a couple minutes of burning, those clay bowls are ready to come out. They are carefully transferred into three empty barrels and topped with dried grass. Lids on, the high temperature from the bowl will light the grass, creating black smock inside the barrels, soon the space inside will deprive of oxygen, and the air pressure will push those smock into the clay—now almost transferred into glazed ceramic. When the lids are open again, those clay bowls have went through a transformation to darkened shells. Though the process isn’t complete yet, and the stage is now moved into the barn.
-Raku burning session in action-
Eight terrace heaters stand in two lines on both sides, framing the long tables in the middle, leading people to go into the barn, towards the projection. On top of the table, big metal bowls are now filled with warm water, steaming vapor dances to the moving image. Out of the black curtain somewhere, khaki servers bring glasses of bloody marry that echoes the bright orange glow earlier. As if it is perfectly choreographed, right after everyone’s glass is half empty, from outside of the barn, comes black balls that are steams hot. “Oh! the inside is even “hotter”!” The brave one bites into the black dough, where orange red “lava” that is chili infused sprong out. On the side of the table, there are people already scrubbing, following the guidance of Suzanne’s colleague, guests put on the rubbing gloves, scrap the raku bowls that were burning in the barrels. The inside must be rid of silver residue. After the intense show of fire and molten earth, one more secret awaits, but let’s leave the Raku bowls for now. Heading back into the restaurant.
-Raku bowl scrubbing-
-serving hot steaming buns-
While everyone is away from the restaurant, spring has visited and planted baby radishes, Brussels sprouts, paddy straw mushrooms… on a line of white and green soil made of vegan yoghurt spread and herbal hummus. With seeds, crumbles scattered around, one get a sense of an otherworldly forest bed full of freshness and bright color. Faintly, a scent draws people closer to the table, is it moss? wait, wet forest bed with autumn fruits… where does it come from? Surrounded by an abundance of senses, everyone sits down. Still admiring the view, they are given instructions to dig in from Suzanne. But only with exceptionally long ceramic spoons handmade by Suzanne, people can feed their opponents, neighbors but themselves. With astonishment and giggles all over the table, our khaki servers brought the long spoons to people’s hands. A couple of adventurous ones go straight for their opponents mouth, some starts shy but soon get taken over by their inner child. Giggles turn into hearty laugh, neighbors slowly loosen each other’s guards, in an edible garden, everyone finds a common ground. With some collective effort, the “forest bed”—banana leaf were taken away, leaving only the black table cloth.
-planting the garden-
-our khaki crew hand out long spoons-
-finding common ground is happiness inducing-
And it is time to reveal the “secret”. Raku bowls that were being burnt and scrubbed by everyone, now in their new jacket, come as the serving bowls for another earthy treat: clay ice. Two types of flavor: matcha and “original” clay sit in each bowl. They are being served on top of round black trays by our “khaki servers”. Finish your ice-cream, and the Raku bowl is for you to take home afterwards. Just about when everyone thinks the night is coming to an end. Suzanne invites the guests back into the Haeckel Room again, where a glass table that is lit by two LED strips on the side, under chef Thor’s magic fingers, is topped with yellow and deep red fruit leather, black rice, pink meringue and dollops of coconut cream. A futuristic remnant site and its bright plasticky landscape suggests our possible impact on earth. Everyone embarked on a journey, where one first introduce oneself to a new land by ingesting its soil, then going deep into the rumbling heat. When comes back, are once again welcomed by the abundance a land can offer and are reminded that it is the land that we all share, and perhaps when we are enjoying the amazing sweets brought by chef Thor, we can have another look at our plastic waste habit, and all can go away thinking feeling the earth that bear us all in a new way.
-our bodemdrang icecream bowl-
-our chef Thor preparing the future fossil-
-future fossil landscape-
*for more images you can visit our flickr page.