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Gourmet Restaurant for Plants Opens at Crocker Art Museum

  • Location:
    Crocker Art Museum, 216 O Street, Sacramento, California, 95814, US


Executive Chef Jonathon Keats Offers Fine Outdoor Dining for Bushes and Shrubs… Full-Color Recipe Book Brings Photosynthetic Cuisine to the Masses…

April 11, 2011 - Consumed by humans in salads and stir fries for generations, plants will finally attain a cuisine of their own with the debut of the world's first photosynthetic restaurant in Sacramento this month. Situated in the luxuriant 19th Century gardens of the Crocker Art Museum, under the supervision of executive chef Jonathon Keats, the photosynthetic restaurant will provide botanical patrons with healthful and appetizing meals freshly prepared by filtering and mixing the full spectrum of sunlight.

"Honestly I'm surprised that nobody else has done this," says Mr. Keats, an experimental philosopher who has never operated a restaurant before. "For nearly a half billion years, plants have subsisted on a diet of photons haphazardly served up by the sun and indiscriminately consumed, without the least thought given to culinary enjoyment. Frankly, it's barbaric."

To rectify this situation, Mr. Keats has turned to the botanical research of institutions including US Department of Agriculture and the Siberian Academy of Sciences. "Thought plants can't taste or smell, their sensory apparatus is incredibly sophisticated," Mr. Keats explains. His solar gastronomy is tailored to their leafy physiology.

Spanning the Crocker Art Museum gardens, panes of colored acrylic will be positioned to filter specific wavelengths of light over the course of the day as the sun arcs across the sky. "Jonathon's recipes are formulated with careful attention to culinary principles that would be familiar to anyone from Apicius to Julia Child," says Scott Shields, associate director and chief curator of the Crocker. Which is not to say that Mr. Keats' preparations can be found in The Joy of Cooking. "This isn't spoon-and-fork territory," asserts Mr. Keats. "What could be more disrespectful to my patrons than for my restaurant to treat plants like people?"

Despite his want of kitchen experience, experts agree that Mr. Keats is uniquely suited to operate a photosynthetic restaurant. "Jonathon has a long history of catering to other species," notes Dr. Shields. For instance, Mr. Keats has choreographed ballet for honeybees at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts by selectively planting flowers around San Francisco hives. He has also produced pornography for house plants by projecting videos of pollination onto their foliage in a darkened theater at the Armand Hammer Museum. "Jonathon's efforts to share aspects of human culture with other species encourage us to scrutinize our own cultural values," Dr. Shields observes.

In anticipation of his impending culinary celebrity, Mr. Keats has already produced his first recipe book, published by the Crocker. "Though California is the world culinary capital, and Sacramento is the agricultural heart of the state, photosynthetic cuisine should be available to every tree and bramble on the planet," asserts Mr. Keats. And while he's willing to discuss franchising with everyone from Wolfgang Puck to Ronald McDonald, he believes that gourmet sunlight shouldn't be reserved for special occasions. "Photosynthetic cuisine needs to be domesticated, at home in people's gardens. As our plants grow more civilized, perhaps they can further civilize us."

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The Photosynthetic Restaurant will be open daily from April 16 to July 17, 2011 in the floral plantings of the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA. For more information, see crockerartmuseum.org

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Acclaimed as "a poet of ideas" by the New Yorker, Jonathon Keats is an experimental philosopher and artist based in the United States and Italy. Recently he opened a space agency for potatoes at California State University. He has also exhibited extraterrestrial abstract art at the Judah L Magnes Museum, presented the nation's first ouija voting booth at the Berkeley Art Museum, and attempted to genetically engineer God in collaboration with scientists at the University of California. His projects have been documented by PBS, NPR, and the BBC World Service, garnering favorable attention in periodicals ranging from The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle, to Nature and New Scientist, to Flash Art and ArtUS. Additionally, Keats serves as the art critic for San Francisco Magazine and as a columnist for Wired Magazine. He's the author of two novels and an American Library Association award-winning collection of stories published by Random House, as well as a book about the co-evolution of language and science, "Virtual Words", published by Oxford University Press last October. Since graduating summa cum laude from Amherst College in 1994, he has been a visiting artist at California and Montana State Universities, and a guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as the recipient of Yaddo and MacDowell fellowships. He is represented by Modernism Gallery in San Francisco. He can be contacted at jonathon_keats@yahoo.com