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Behind the Scenes, Pantone Colors of the Year 2021 Photoshoot

Pantone Food As Art
Photo Credit: Cade Nagy

Recently, the creative minds from our various in-house teams came together to produce one of our most creative shoots to date – the Pantone Colors of the Year 2021 Dish series.

When the Pantone Colors of the Year for 2021 were announced we instantly found inspiration in the contrast and meaning of the two colors, appropriately named “Ultimate Grey” and “Illuminating.” From there we worked with our Chef De Cuisine, Matt Heikkila, to create a spread of four dishes with the purpose of reconstructing these colors into edible art. We spoke to Matt a bit more about the process, the reasoning behind his styling, and techniques he used.

Squid Ink Pasta
Squid Ink Pasta

For the Appetizer, Squid Ink Tortellini and Wild Rice Polenta, what process did you use to come up with the stunning grey color?

Matt: Coming up with a dish that was entirely grey seemed like the biggest challenge of this project, but once I got going this quickly became my favorite of the series. For the tortellini, we used a standard pasta dough and added squid ink to archive that deep grey we were looking for. With plating in mind, I crafted the tortellini larger than normal to further make them the center of attention. We decided to play with black garlic and pickled black mustard seeds to enhance flavor as well as visual appearance, creating a dish with equal parts visual and flavor appeal.

Oysters with Yellow Pepper & Passion Fruit Caviar
Oysters with Yellow Pepper & Passion Fruit Caviar

The two pantone colors start to come together with the next dish, the Oysters with Yellow Pepper Gel and Passion Fruit Caviar. Why did you choose these ingredients?

Matt: For the second dish, we wanted to achieve a 75% grey 25% yellow ratio, meaning we also had to combine these colors in a way that wouldn’t be too jarring for the eyes. Because of this, I wanted to keep this piece more on the simple side visually (although the process itself was not). Oysters are a great ingredient on their own, so I wanted to focus on flavor profiles that would brighten the dish for your pallet the same way the color did for your eyes.

It also allowed me to play with agar-agar to make the pepper gel. It’s a multi-step process, but it’s also one that gives me a lot of freedom to play around. For the yellow pepper gel, we roasted peeled yellow peppers, pureed them, then cooked them down with a percentage of water, agar, and sugar. After we allowed them to set, we blended, strained and removed any air using a vacuum, creating the bright gel you see above.

Black Cod & Beets
Black Cod & Beets

For the third dish you utilized black cod, or sablefish, with beets used in various ways. Why did you choose the beets as a multi-use ingredient here?

Matt: The goal of this dish was to comfortably transition into the final, all yellow dish. So, think a ratio of 75% yellow, 25% grey. I really wanted the yellow of the dishes to add brightness to the grey, using the same ethos Pantone instituted with their colors of the year. Starting off with the black cod as the center of the dish allowed us to add that brightness of color I was seeking, but also the freshness of the beets.

I thought it would be fun for this dish to utilize the same product but in a couple different ways to add elements of texture as well. There were whole roast baby beets, shaved raw beets that were cut into circles, yellow beet puree, and finally the yellow beet crumb that was dehydrated and ground beet chips.

Lemon Curd with Lemon Macaroon
Lemon Curd with Lemon Macaroon

With the final dish, the Lemon Curd with Lemon Macaroon, Candied Lemon Peel and Micro Marigold, we see a vibrant climax in stark contrast to the opening, all grey tortellini dish. What motivated you to make this dish this way?

Matt: This dish was created with the intent of it being more on the whimsical side with the inclusion of the macaroons and the micro flowers. It needed to be light, airy, playful and bright both in color and flavor to really finish out the series. We wanted to make this series with so many different aspects in mind – the flavors, the visual appeal of the contrasting colors, and the meaning Pantone gave these colors – so ending it on a high note was an obvious choice.

We had such a great time collaborating and creating this fun & whimsical version of food as art. We hope you enjoy!

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