Bob Blumer, one of the most whimsical and witty chefs on television, can add another accomplishment to his already extensive list: designer! I caught up with him to ask him about some of his latest cooking experiments, the craziest places he's ever had dinner at (and he's been to many!) as well as get an inside look at the eccentric, food-themed room he designed for Toronto's Gladstone Hotel.
Bob Blumer in the room he designed for Toronto's Gladstone HotelJennifer Bartoli: Tell us about the room you designed -- what was the process like? Bob Blumer: The Gladstone was renovated eight years ago. At that time, Christina Zeidler, the owner, commissioned 37 artists to each design one of the 37 rooms. After the renovation, the hotel became my home away from home (which is in Los Angeles). After staying in over half of the rooms, I was so inspired that I decided I wanted to design one myself. Four years later, I finally convinced Christina to give me the chance. I’ve tried to make my room a mash-up of form, function and culinary whimsy.
Pillsbury Dough Boy TV coverJB: What’s the most whimsical, crazy design element? BB: I had so much fun designing the room and fabricating the components, that I had a hard time stopping. There’s a Swiss cheese canopy over the bed, marshmallow pillowcases and an armoire, which is a riff—inside and out—on a Froot Loops box. I am also very partial to the wall-size photos of Mr. Peanut, the Trix Rabbit and the Pillsbury Doughboy (who doubles as a TV cover!). This series is based on my personal collection of vintage food mascots, and I did it as a collaboration with Toronto fine art photographer Fausta Facciponte.
The Froot Loops closetJB: Tell us a little bit about the kitchenette you designed for the room. If you were staying in the room for a night, what would you make? BB: The kitchenette is tiny, but highly functional. It has a set of three Shun knives (the same Japanese knives I use at home), a Krups Panini maker, a vintage Osterizer blender, a microwave, a mini Steam Whistle fridge, some funky vintage glassware and a wine glass chandelier. If I were cooking in it, I would make a selection of open faced paninis starting with blue cheese honey and prosciutto. JB: You chose 9 wines that will be available for purchase for hotel guests who stay in the room. How did you go about picking the wines and can you highlight some of your favourites? BB: In most hotels, the guest is lucky if there is one overpriced airplane-size bottle of wine in the mini bar. In my room, I personally selected five reds, 2 whites, a sparkling wine and an ice wine—all of which can be purchased for only $39. I tasted a hundred wines before making my final choices. And I chose a cross section of old and new world styles. Each wine is a stellar example of its variety and defies its price. My three-word reviews are up on the blackboard in the kitchenette.
The kitchenetteJB: Do you have any Surreal Gourmet-inspired food-themed objects in your home? BB: My house is very spare, but my kitchen is chock-a-block with surreal objets d’art— some functional, some not—that I have collected from around the world. JB: Your show World’s Weirdest Restaurants, which airs on Food Network Canada, showcases some of the wackiest dining experiences! If you had to pick just one, which restaurant would you say was the strangest place you’ve ever set foot in? BB: It’s hard to beat dining amongst nudists, as I did at a pop-up (!) in New York City or eating curry out of miniature toilet bowls at Modern Toilet in Taipei. JB: I’m sure that you prepare some pretty amazing dishes for your daily dinners. What’s something you cooked this week? BB: The new edition of Pizza on the Grill, a book I co-wrote with my friend Elizabeth Karmel, just came out. To celebrate, I have been making my dinner guests our Pumpkin Palooza pizza on a gluten-free crust we developed (did I mention I live in L.A.?). JB: Any unusual ingredient you always have in your fridge or pantry? BB: I have a brown thumb, but I have been successful at growing exotic citrus. My “back yard pantry” includes Meyer lemons, blood oranges, kafir limes, kumquats, Buddha’s hand lemons, and my latest addition, finger limes. I use their fruit, zest and some of their leaves in a lot of my cooking. Photos courtesy of the Gladstone Hotel