The Brooklyn Museum is saturated in color for this spring’s Frida Kahlo exhibit, right down to the food. The museum restaurant, The Norm, which is operated by Great Performances, is hosting a series of residencies and other programming to accompany the iconic artist’s work.
Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, running February 8 through May 12, displays not only Kahlo’s work but articles of her clothing and other personal effects, offering a broader context to the paintings. This extends to the interior as well as the menu at the Norm, which has been redesigned by executive chef Saul Bolton along with chef de cuisine Andy Meijas and now features a variety of dishes and cocktails inspired by Mexican dishes and flavors, from Oaxacan-style enchiladas to horchata French toast on the brunch menu.
That’s just from the in-house team. Throughout the exhibit’s run, The Norm will be hosting several chefs from around the city who specialize in Mexican cuisine, who will contribute their own perspectives to the menu. The first partner chefs are Sue Torres, TV personality and consultant, and Carlos and Felipe Arellano of Chela in Park Slope, who have already added their dishes to the lineup, like Torres’s flautas de camarones and the Arellanos’s huarache de nopales.
Other programming during the exhibit’s run includes pop-up food kiosks operated by the partner chefs on First Saturdays, a family program hosted by Sue Torres, and a pop-up “Mexican Marketplace” in the museum lobby offering pastries from Mi Mexico Pequeño, a special Oaxacan coffee blend by Brooklyn Roasting Company, and various other Mexican drinks and snacks, running through the duration of the exhibit.
Following Torres’s and the Arellanos’s residencies are Natalia Mendez of La Morada and TJ Steele of Claro, from March 5 to April 6, and finishing off with Justin Bazdarich of Oxomoco from April 9 to May 24. The menus for these residencies are still in the works, but visitors can most likely expect to see variations on signature dishes from the chefs’ respective restaurants. Steele told us via email that he’s working on bringing “some very traditional Oaxacan dishes with a New York approach for sure. It will be reflective of the menu at Claro.” Bazdarich is working on adapting some of Oxomoco’s signature wood-fired dishes for the Norm’s kitchen, such as, tentatively, their lamb barbacoa and possibly a crudo.
So far, the guest chefs are finding Frida’s work and life to be a source of inspiration. Bazdarich, who himself was a visual artist before he found his way to cooking, spoke to us about how he’s working to connect Kahlo to the food, “using the plate as the palette.”
“I always try to make every dish I create a colorful one. Frida’s works are colorful, her attire and the way she presented herself was always a sort of flamboyant, colorful sense, which is Mexico, I think.”
Steele echoes this. “Frida was a true individual whose art went deeper than its imagery and she wasn’t scared to push boundaries,” and he tries to bring the same energy to his own work. “I really look at all aspects of cooking as an art form, so I think there’s a lot of synergy.”
Photos courtesy of the Norm at the Brooklyn Museum.