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Dinner Is Served!

On 19th June, the top Viennese chef Lukas Mraz guides visitors through the Daniel Spoerri exhibition in the Kunstforum. But you can also read here in advance what cooking and art have in common and which wine Spoerri drunk.

And Lukas also tells you what he finds cool about Spoerri and why he sees himself as a craftsperson rather than as an artist.

If anything, I stumbled upon Daniel Spoerri’s art by accident. Many years ago there was an exhibition in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. A friend told me about it with great enthusiasm. At the time, I still wasn’t that interested in art and yet I was fascinated by the fact that Spoerri was already combining food and art back in the 1960s. This is something that very few have managed. In any case, I’m sure that more cooks are now interested in art than, conversely, artists in food.

Top Chef Lukas Mraz Photo: Lisa Edi

Restaurant Mraz & Sohn in Vienna Photo Lisa Edi

Someone who studied in the 1970s once told me that, back then, artists enjoyed cooking. The pioneer was perhaps the filmmaker Peter Kubelka, who also wrote a lot of theoretical stuff about food. Earlier one would say: “An artist who can’t cook well can’t create good art either.” That’s completely changed, which I think is a shame.

No cheap wine!

Spoerri’s snare pictures capture what is left on a table at the end of a meal. The dirty plates and the emptied bottles. The huge ashtrays. I can still remember people smoking in my father’s restaurant for years.

Mraz & Sohn Photo Lisa Edi

Spoerri’s pictures are of course intensely epicurean. Vintage wines are drunk, I can tell from the labels on the empty bottles that this isn’t the cheap stuff. In Spoerri’s work, we can see that those people had had a really good time. Eating and drinking were associated with quality, which is something that I also seek to embody in my restaurant Mraz & Sohn in the 20th District.

I have many friends who are artists, I like going to exhibitions and allowing myself to be inspired. During lockdown, I sold edible art on Vienna’s Naschmarkt with the artist Anna Paul. We made salami sculptures from the best ingredients. Of course food is also, to a certain extent, art, but an awful lot of craftspersonship is also involved. Hence, I don’t see myself as an artist. Good food is about responsibility. In my eyes, food has a lot to do with sustainability. I have no understanding for wasting food. Neither in art nor in cooking.

The Healthy Boyband: Felix Schellhorn, Lukas Mraz and Philip Rachinger Photo: Lisa Edi

A boy band that cooks

Together with Felix Schellhorn and Philip Rachinger, I run the Healthy Boy Band, an art project that seeks to stir up the elite cooking scene by adding some anarchic humour. We’re currently staging an exhibition in an off space in Lucerne. We always say: We create atmosphere. The same is true of Spoerri’s snare pictures: In every restaurant and in every kitchen there’s a special atmosphere, which is of course also reflected on the table.

In art, you can be freer and make more mistakes. That’s why we established the Healthy Boy Band. In a restaurant there are lots of no-goes and expectations. The guests pay a lot and the food must taste good, one’s options are much more limited. Fortunately, my father always did what he felt like doing. This is naturally a question of character, but at Mraz & Sohn we like to experiment.

We take advantage of this freedom. And that which I try out in our art always ends up sooner or later in our restaurant.