Bompas & Parr: Just Desserts

A Glimpse Inside the Studio of the Culinary Provocateurs

The work of self-proclaimed “Jellymongers” Bompas & Parr forms the missing link between dessert and performance art. From a walk-in gin and tonic mist to “occult” jam (infused with a speck of Princess Diana’s hair), to sedative trifles made with ether custard, to “scratch and sniff” film screenings, if it sounds ridiculous, improbable or impossible, they’ve probably given it a whirl. Though they made their name making unusually shaped jellies (i.e. of the wobbly, British kind, including miniature versions of St Paul’s Cathedral and a jelly map of the USA), the duo’s endless creativity truly comes to the fore in their large scale events: recent happenings include “The Complete History of Food” (a banquet that took guests through 700 years of weird and wonderful cuisine) and a feast at Kenilworth Castle, for which they crafted 300 desserts inspired by the extravagance of Elizabeth I. “A lot of time is spent at the pub thinking ‘wouldn’t it be brilliant if…?’,” says Sam Bompas, who launched Bompas & Parr with school friend Harry Parr in 2007—the latter’s training in architecture coming in handy when designing the pair’s towering, ambitious jelly molds. The two have an obsession with 19th-century eccentricity: Bompas’s heroes include “the Victorian Jamie Oliver,” Agnes B Marshall (an ice-cream fanatic who was using liquid nitrogen in the kitchen as early as the 1890s), and Alexis Soyer, who at the time of London’s Great Exhibition created an event which, according to Bompas, “included an ice bar with real stalactites, stuffed snow foxes and a garden grotto with lemonade and ice lollies, which you entered through a waterfall.” Bompas positions his work with Parr as a kind of rebuttal to the computer age. “We like doing things that are tangible, that get inside people’s heads and give them an amazing time.” For today’s story, NOWNESS sent photographer Toby Glanville to Bompas & Parr’s studio in London Bridge, which has never been shot before. Trip out on Sam Bompas’s thoughts on buildings, blancmange and the perfect wobble in our exclusive interview.  

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