Inside New Orleans Museum of Art
#1 Collins Diboll Circle, City Park / New Orleans, LA 70124

Artful Fare

H0N0LULU ? Some of the most extraordinary works at the Hawai'i State Art Museum are in the pastry case. The artist? Michelle Karr-Ueoka, half of the team that runs the James Beard Award-nominated MW Restaurant across town. Along with the other half ? her husband, Wade Ueoka ? she's a veteran of Alan Wong's, which Food & Wine and Gourmet magazines named among the best in the world and best in the country, respectively; she was pastry chef there, and he was chef de cuisine, after also doing a stint at the legendary French Laundry. Now, like other star chefs, they've teamed up with a museum. Their cafe here, Artizen, which opened in December, serves traditional Hawaiian food with a contemporary twist, from mocha-crusted opah on somen noodles to a MUSEUMS, Page 3 "mixed plate" sandwich combining fried chicken and spicy pork on a fresh-baked Hawaiian roll with a side of kimchi potato salad. It's a far cry from the plasticwrapped stale fare once served in places like this. And it's the hottest thing in museums: gourmet food in standout restaurants that are becoming destinations in themselves. "It's a good match," the soft-spoken Ueoka said, taking a rare break in the small dining area of his museum cafe. After all, he said, "Food is a form of art." The trend began at top museums in major cities. In New York, for instance, Danny Meyers has restaurants in both the Museum of Modern Art ? it's called The Modern and is helmed by chef Abram Bissell, who once worked at L'Espalier in Boston ? and the Whitney, called Untitled and run day to day by Gramercy Tavern and Cafe Boulud veteran Chris Bradley. M. Wells Dinette, the restaurant at MoMA's PS1, is the creation of Michelin-starred chef Hugue Dufour. Terzo Piano at the Art Institute of Chicago is run by Tony Mantuana of Spiaggia. Wolfgang Puck is behind restaurant The Source at the Newseum in Washington. Now the idea is percolating into smaller museums. "For years and years, the cafeteria or the lunch places [in museums] were typically kinds of canteens, and it was a shame. Because when you go to a museum, you're looking for a larger experience, and eating and drinking should be part of it," said the Parisbased director general of the International Council of Museums, AnneCatherine Robert Hauglustaine. "We're very surprised and pleased by the fact that now, around the world, these museums are going with a new way of serving food," Hauglustaine said. MuCEM, in Marseilles, for instance, whose subject is the history of Europe and the Mediterranean, has a Mediterranean-style restaurant by Chef Gerald Passedat, proprietor of the Michelin three-starred Le Petit Nice. Cafe Noma at the New Orleans Museum of Art is run by New Orleans restaurateur Ralph Brennan, and features such local specialties as mesquite brisket sandwiches and roasted Gulf shrimp salads. Otium (it means "ease" in Latin), the restaurant at the Broad Museum of contemporary art in Los Angeles, was even more anticipated in some quarters than the museum itself, which opened in the fall, and it's gotten wildly positive reviews since. Its chef is Tim Hollingsworth, the self-trained former chef de cuisine at The French Laundry. "People are appreciating just being able to eat this kind of food while making a day of going and spending a few hours at the museum," Hollingsworth said between fielding appeals for reservations and questions from his staff. The science-and-anthropologythemed Musee des Confluences, opened in 2014 in Lyon, has teamed up on its Brasserie des Confluences with chef Guy Lassausaie (Restaurant Guy Lassausaie, two Michelin stars). And at a Velazquez exhibition last year at the Grand Palais exhibition hall in Paris, the food for sale was provided by triple-Michelin-starred and French Legion d'Honneu-winning chef Eric Frechon of Le Bristol. "Exhibitions," France TV observed at the time, "are not enough anymore." That's one of the major reasons small museums in particular are working to improve the food they offer. "If museums are realizing that they want to be destinations for more than the 5 percent of the population who are museum-obsessed, they have to be generally convivial and welcoming places to go," said Elizabeth Merritt, vice president of the American Alliance of Museums and founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums. "Part of it is just plain comfort, and part of comfort is food." Ueoka, who grew up in Hawaii, said he'd never stepped foot in the art museum himself until he opened his cafe there. In an age of virtual reality and other competition, he and others said, museums are trying to attract more visitors like him, and better food is proving an effective way to do it. "People no longer come to a museum just to see old paintings," said Jonathan Johnson, executive director of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, which runs the art museum. "They want to engage." Artizen is buzzing at the lunch hour with people who work in the neighborhood ? the hoods above the oven in the kitchen vent their alluring smells outside ? and "I bet a lot of them come here to eat and say, 'Look,'" Johnson said, gesturing toward the singular collection, which includes modern and historic works depicting Hawaiian scenes and by Hawaiian artists. Conversely, he said, some visitors to the museum discover the restaurant, whose business has so exceeded expectations that it's planning to add breakfast. A few blocks away, the Hawaiian Mission Houses historic site has also brought in a celebrity chef: Mark Noguchi, former chef and co-owner of the widely acclaimed He'eia Kea Pier General Store & Deli and a Cooking Channel commentator. His new restaurant opened in the fall to serve Hawaiian foods, including local venison and luau stew, at the museum complex, which tells the story of the New England Christian missionaries who came to Hawaii to convert the natives. "A lot of the locals haven't been here since the third grade," Noguchi said under the kukui and kou trees that shade the patio of his restaurant, called Mission. "In this day and age, people's perceptions of museums are different. Millennials aren't as interested in museums. Museums are looking for ways to bring in traffic." Here, at least, it's working. The lowkey museum has seen an uptick in visits since the restaurant was opened, said Tom Woods, its director. "We're mutually beneficial," he said. "We bring customers for them on a drop-in basis, but they've added a unique feature we didn't have before." Good food, done right, also complements the missions of museums, said Hollingsworth, at Otium, which features bright handmade ceramic tile, chairs, tables, flatware, stemware, lighting fixtures, and even aprons cre ated by Los Angeles artists. "There's just the sheer fact that people in general are appreciating food more, and more and more interested in where it comes from," he said. "And people going to see the arts appreciate the presentation of it, and the ways you can connect food and art." Jon Marcus can be reached at jon@mysecretboston.com. 'In this day and age, people's perceptions of museums are different. Millennials aren't as interested in museums. Museums are looking for ways to bring in traffic.' MARK NOGUCHI, a chef who runs a restaurant at the Hawaiian Mission Houses historic site. The highly acclaimed cafe Artizen opened at the Hawai'i State Art Museum(top right) in December. Above and right: cuisine from Otium at the Broad Museum of contemporary art in Los Angeles.


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