Cultured in the Kitchen People

Enter Suea's Garden of Earthly Delights

The installations, offerings, and environments Suea composes for her experimental dinner series and cake service feel like dreamscapes. From an angelic butter mold to surreal carrots, each creation is imbued with lightness and fantasy. Inspired by her journals and her ritual ventures to farmers markets, Suea's work challenges how we should see, consume, and think about food. Whether the results are soothing or jarring, Suea's goal is to engage through form, table setting, and the performance of hosting itself—much of which is displayed through her hard-to-book Suea’s Dinner Service.

More than designing for viral attention, her work is firmly rooted in her Korean heritage and her experience in fashion, as well as from her travels from Montana to Paris and throughout South America. It’s not fusion, though, but rather an understanding of when one ingredient or concept might be better suited than another. After all, Suea, 28, began cooking because she wanted to learn how to make “American” food, as she calls it—truly an impossible task to undertake without borrowing from other cultures. Her father, an architect, and her mother, who studied art history, had an early influence on her path; whether it was fashion or food, she always knew she would end up creating. Now she gets to do both, proposing unique and unexpected concoctions like a kitschy supermarket cake topped with a photo of a baby deer and studded with candied cherubs or her butter candles, which melt to become a dipping sauce.

Suea’s work expands on the question of what food means right now—or at least how she understands it. With the need to balance aesthetics while satiating her guests’s appetites, the chef has shied away from confirming her work as art, arguing that food shouldn’t be a “sacred, untouchable item,” but rather playful and inventive.