It must be said: This is, quite possibly, the most gorgeous cookbook in the world. Judge Steve Gordon calls it “a tour de force.”
It’s a joy to hold and page through. Its recipes are beyond innovative, its photography breathtaking, its concept sublime. It appeals to the professional chef, the aspiring home cook, the poet, the visual artist. It’s flawless, almost. That’s by design.
“Perfection in Imperfection/Imperfection in Perfection” was born out of a sensory experiment. In 2010, the noted pastry chef Janice Wong, founder of Singapore’s 2am: dessertbar, spent 72 hours blindfolded, in an effort to sharpen her other senses. She writes in the book’s foreword: “Without my sight, my imagination was set free. I couldn’t see a thing, but I could see everything.”
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The book shares the inspiration behind Wong’s most innovative desserts — childhood memories, flavors, textures and colors found in nature, diverse cultures. Wong’s creations capture “an artistic, gastronomic world of flawless imperfection and flawed perfection.”
Wong’s work is a mashup: classically French in technique, Asian in aesthetic presentation, global in flavor. A cloud of guava sorbet floats atop a mound of “snow” made from Moroccan argan oil and sugar, garnished with starfruit, elderflower panna cotta and geranium petals. A lump of dark chocolate “charcoal” sits on a smear of mascarpone-yogurt sauce in a stunning black-and-white arrangement. A plate of chocolate “soil” holds clumps of salted caramel and fruit sorbet — it looks exactly like pieces of coral on a volcanic beach.
To bring her vision to the printed page, Wong partnered with the Singapore design agency Yellow Octopus — no stranger to HOW’s design awards — in a rather accidental collaboration. Wong had worked with another studio to create the book, and it was on press when the project ran into trouble. Late one Friday night, Yellow Octopus art director Kevin Thio received a call from a friend asking if he could help her friend with a printing problem. That friend-of-a-friend turned out to be Wong.
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She and Thio spent hours talking about ideas and inspirations. Wong was like “the Duracell bunny, bouncing off walls with so much energy and excitement about what she had to do,” Thio says. “That night, she canned the project with the other agency and we found ourselves inheriting it.”
The Yellow Octopus team redesigned the book from the ground up in a chaotic month and a half. Form and content are inseparable: The book itself is as much a celebration of perfection and imperfection as the food. Art directors Thio and Jason Chua spec’d a dual jacket: A tipped-on overlay with the title embossed in copper foil is crumpled and torn by hand to reveal the black-on-black cover underneath. Heavy cardboard covers the front and back of the book, but the spine is bare to reveal the inner workings. The pages are tipped in black, so the book has a monumental feel.
“Everything about this book is a breakthrough,” says judge Dale Doyle.
The International Design Awards spotlights the best projects from around the globe. View the 220 Award-Winners featured in the March 2012 issue of HOW.
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Title Perfection in Imperfection/Imperfection in Perfection | Design Firm Yellow Octopus Pte. Ltd., Singapore; www.yellowoctopus.com.sg | Creative Team Kevin Thio, art director; Jason Chua, art director/designer; Lau Shu Hui, designer; Kelvin Koh/Lighted Pixels, photographer; Janice Wong, author; Koh Yuen Lin, editorial consultant | Printer Sang Choy International Pte. Ltd. | Client 2am: Lab Pte. Ltd.