When Michelin-starred chefs need the perfect plate to show off their work, Oakland ceramicist Erin Hupp often gets that call. Hupp has worked with some of the best chefs in the world – including Val M. Cantu of Californios and Kim Alter of Nightbird, both in San Francisco, and Nate Tauer at LA’s Pasta|Bar – on wildly creative collaborations designed to show off the work of two artists operating at the top of their game.
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In this week’s Milkshake, Hupp shares her process for working with chefs – how she interprets the aesthetic reality of the restaurant and the specific needs of a dish. (For an example of how this can manifest itself, see this plate for brunch-forward restaurant Hilda and Jesse, which has a glaze meant to mimic the shine of syrup and berries.) “When I first meet with a chef in the restaurant, I’m thinking very much about utility,” she says. “In the case of Val Cantu, who I work with in Californios, it’s his handmade blue corn masa tortillas: How large are they? How large of a plating area [will they need], or a well? And I’m looking around at the restaurant, especially at the tabletops: Is it a white-linen tabletop? A copper tabletop? Marble? Dark wood? And I’m trying to decide which of my clays and glazes and collections is going to pop the most – what’s going to support the food. If you have a really dark tortilla, like at Californios, do you want my really deep, inky, black texture? Or do you want something lighter?”
Also in this Milkshake, Erin shares a new espresso cup and saucer for a private client and talks about how working with top-flight chefs pulls and pushes her work in new ways. She shows us a plate from her Graffiti plate for Pasta|Bar: “Chef Nate [Tauer] had a specific dish that he wanted me to have a plate for, so we started with my Fold plate and branched out from there,” she says. The plate in question has both a folded edge and a spray of bright red glaze. “Normally I wouldn’t go that bold in color, but Chef had an idea to create a colored-pattern pasta,” Hupp says. “And I can’t wait to see the final result – my art isn’t complete until it’s plated. Customers at Pasta|Bar are invited to touch my pieces and flip it over and maybe see my collaborative stamp with Pasta|Bar and just know that at a Michelin dining experience, every part of the process is really thought through.”
To see more of Erin’s work in action, visit the recently opened Stanly Ranch Auberge Resorts in Napa; her textured vase appears in the hotel’s restaurant, Bear. A different vase is on view (and for sale) at Hayes Valley jewelry store Metier, also in San Francisco – or just tune in to Milkshake for more of her beautiful work.
For gorgeous kitchenware that’ll stand the test of time (and look good while doing it) – tune in!
Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.
Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.