Food artist's miniatures gives new meaning to "I'll just have a tiny piece..."
In these heady times of double downs, gargantuan pizza-stuffed pizzas, super-sized trios and other wildly hypercaloric food dares, one Canadian culinary artist is going the other way. Tom Brown's portion sizes are decidedly (and adorably) wee. While the Calgarian's miniature meals may leave you hungry for seconds (thirds, fourths, and fifths) his teeny creations are so whimsical that they'll almost certainly stuff your sense of wonder to the gills. I'll cop to a fully vocalized giggle as I watched this video of him making an itty-bitty burger. It bogles the mind (mine anyway).
Most fascinating is that despite his minute munchies being not only palatable but genuinely tasty, the end product isn't even the main course. It's his cooking process that'll blow your mind like an adorably bitty piece of bubble gum. Authenticity, from start to finish (including favourable flavour) is the true jewel in Brown's culinary crown. His entire portable kitchen, which would likely fit on a cafeteria tray, has everything a serious chef needs — and it's a showpiece. A tiny gas stove (fueled by eye drops of alcohol) cooks his snacklets to perfection. Teensy tools like spatulas, spoons, knives, chopping boards, bowls, plates, skillets, all hand-fashioned, are well worn (further proof of their use: they get washed in the kitchen's tiny sink after every meal). Brown, who is life-sized, holds the positions of chef, sous-chef and dishwasher in his little kitchen. More staff simply wouldn't fit. At heart, Brown is a performance artist who regularly takes his cute kitchen outdoors to offer the public petite street "meat" (made with soy for safety reasons). He's no doubt working on a tiny fridge, so that could change. With his tongue housed firmly in his cheek, he's called his project 'Feeding the Masses' — it's a feast for the eyes more than anything.
Miniatures have always loomed big for Brown but in 2014 his graduation project at the Alberta College of Art and Design had him set his sights on food. "I thought, 'If I take this thing that's so close to us, and transform it in this weird way, when people interact with it, the implications for their own life will be stronger,'" Brown says. "The next time they eat food… they'll be like, 'Hey, this is actually an interesting thing I'm doing right now.'" Not nearly as interesting as eating an entire apple pie the size of a toonie but it's just that mealtime mindfulness that his bitsy bites provoke.
Brown, who's never met a dish too big to cook on a small scale, challenges himself with a new recipe weekly. "Everything is possible," he says. "I've done burgers, empanadas, corn dogs, spring rolls, doughnuts". The doughnuts are the size of Cheerios, and yes, they're glazed. He's also cooked up lilliputian shepherd's pie, tiny steamed dumplings, microscopic samosas, slight sushi and petite potato chips (complete with a lil' potato chip bag for serving). Warmer months have him peddling chocolate-swirl ice cream served on a mini homemade waffle cone by way of a tiny scoop. All made from scratch of course. Authentically.
His commitment to the masses is also authentic. Whatever city he's in, Brown likes to hide his tiny one-of-a-kind tools for fans, something he calls Finder's Keepers. If that doesn't spark your inner Indiana Jones, note that he made a traditional Japanese Santoku knife out of a nail. Equal parts cute and bad*ss as far as I'm concerned. To be fair, Brown isn't the first to offer miniature food for consumption. Five years ago, Kracie Happy Kitchen drawing in millions of viewers with their miniature (also edible) food masterpieces and continues to sell bags of microwaveable DIY bitty burgers online. But again, it's the authenticity of Brown's small scale (microwave-free) test kitchen that elevates him a touch, however tiny the podium on which he stands. Should you want a little piece of the artful action, he drops hints every Friday for his gadget giveaways on Instagram. Also, he's currently planning a tour, so you may find him in your city pocket-sizing your favourite foodlings. Gentle reminder: his edible art is best taken before or after meals. Still, your other senses will likely walk away satiated.
Here are some more photos of his impressive pee-wee fare.
All things grate and small
Petite potato chips
Canadian cup o' Tims to go with them
Negligible nacho platter
Marc Beaulieu is a writer, producer and host of the live Q&A show guyQ LIVE @AskMen.