We share a Proustian moment with Matali Crasset who has designed Alessi's new Essentiel de Patisserie collection of four baking aids with the help of famed pastry chef Pierre Hermé. Crasset has also created a lighting installation of two lamps made out of 280 whisks for presentation during New York Design Week at the Alessi store in SoHo.
Do you spend much time in the kitchen? Did personal frustrations with various utensils influence the design process of the Alessi series?
I spend more time at the table than in the kitchen. When I work in the kitchen, it is closer to the work of an ethnologist than that of a cook. For the project with Pierre Hermé, I went several times to observe his work in the "laboratories" in order to analyze it, to break it up. Baking, more than cooking is extremely precise: the tools fall in step.
What is it like to work with the materials you have chosen for these products? How do you think the end user, or cook, will feel?
This collection is called "Essentiel" because baking/pastry tools work with very precise rules. Rationality is very present, and innovation provides answers for why we use things the way that we do. We introduced silicon in the bowl in order to avoid slipping in the "cul de poule" (the round part of the bowl used for mixing separate ingredients).
What would your dream kitchen be or look like?
I think that the dream is in the plate, not in the actual kitchen space. When I did the ephemeral restaurant with Alain Passard for Printemps Department Store in Paris, his team was able to make an incredible cuisine from a tiny laboratory with very basic means. In Thailand, much of the traditional food comes from cooking on the street with just a wok and an antique stove.
What is your favorite kind of cake?
I admire and enjoy Pierre Hermé's patisserie. He is skilled with savors, flavors and amazing textures; his shortcrust is so tasty that it is almost a pastry by itself. I also like the pastries you can find at the breadmakers' shops in France very much, like the classical apple pie.
What is your favorite meal or food?
A madeleine from my childhood; the classic French endive-ham dish with béchamel and cheese recipe from my mother, which my husband now cooks for me.