A well designed menu is the gateway to a good meal. Without being charmed by the cover and reading the food descriptions, we’d be hard put to decide what to eat at a restaurant these days. Renowned painter-sculptor and Padmashri awardee Paresh Maity says, “Food is also an art. It’s an integral part of our life and adds beauty to it.” And he’s just added his own brand of beauty to the city’s food scene by creating a painting for the Taj Mahal Palace’s Indian restaurant Masala Kraft.
The impressive watercolour on board (his forte) was unveiled last night and will be displayed in the restaurant. It will also be used on the cover of their new menu. “It’s in an impressionist style, which is also based on realism,” says Maity, who says it made him nostalgic about his formative years as an artist where he often painted still-life settings that incorporated prawns, crabs and spices. While the execution didn’t take him long, conceptualising what exactly he was going to paint needed some rumination and marination in the menu’s nuances. Maity describes his labour of love, “I’ve used a largely warm colour scheme with lots of reds and yellows as I feel that in our culture, everything is warm. The food at Masala Kraft has a warmth about it too, as it uses our world-famous spices. Indian food is so rich in variety, with a wide variety of culinary styles that changes almost every 100 kms from North to South and East to West across India. I find that inspiring.”
This isn’t his first foray into food-related art, for Maity created a similar painting for Taj Palace Delhi’s Masala Art a few years ago. “I’ve seen how excited people get when they see a real artist’s work on the menu because they’re otherwise used to seeing just run-of-the-mill digital art,” he says, although he emphasises that this isn’t all that radical. “It’s an old concept. Even Pablo Picasso had designed the cover art for a café he visited often,” he shrugs nonchalantly. It’s another thing that the El Quatre Gats café in Barcelona, where Picasso had his first one-man show in 1900, still uses his artwork on their menu, more than a century later. More history in the making, perhaps?
ACT: See some of Maity’s masterpieces at the Taj Art Gallery, Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba, Mumbai, until February 27, 2017, and plan a meal at Masala Kraft to enjoy some honest-to-goodness authentic North Indian fare that draws from our country’s rich heritage. They also serve unique ‘tiffins’ bearing local Maharashtrian and Parsi comfort food.