Practical Notes for Engaging the Restaurant Industry

Ceramic wares and fine dining have gone hand in hand for a long time, but as each hip new restaurant works to find its niche in the culinary community, some are turning to handmade dishware for an advantage.

My journey into the culinary arts was first as a busser and server, then as an artist by way of decorative functional pots. The restaurants at which I bussed and served used the same china found in every diner in America. It was rugged and functional and most importantly a blank canvas for food.

Later, in my life as an artist, I struck up a conversation with a food writer at the opening reception of a show of my work. I shared that it was my dream to host a collaborative dinner with a chef, and to my surprise, she responded, “I know a chef that could make that happen.” She connected me with a prominent local chef who most importantly had an interest in merging the worlds of art and food. We met, and he agreed to host a dinner in which his food was served on my work. During preparations for that first dinner, we were constantly negotiating timelines, material capabilities, and color contrasts. I learned a lot about the way the restaurant industry sees the ceramic dish and the limits of the unique intricacies of handmade pots in such an industrial environment.  

Leak ash dumplings being prepared for service. Steamer pots by Tim Compton, 5 in. diameter each, wheel-thrown  Cone 10 stoneware. Photograph by Audra Sternberg, 2017. Leak ash dumplings in steamer pot by Tim Compton, 5 in. diameter, wheel-thrown, Cone 10 stoneware.