In the realm of contemporary design, where creativity intertwines with functionality, Eeshaan Kashyap stands as a luminary. As a trained chef with a background at the prestigious Oberoi Hotels, Kashyap has not only mastered the culinary arts but also skillfully woven the expertise he acquired there into his multi-disciplinary artistic endeavours. With a portfolio that bridges the worlds of culinary and product design, Kashyap’s unique perspective has reshaped the way we perceive spaces and objects, infusing them with a tasteful blend of aesthetics and practicality. In this interview, FOYER delves into his inspirations, philosophy, and insights, gaining a deeper understanding of his journey as a designer.
FOYER (F): Can you share with us the pivotal moment or experience that sparked your passion for culinary design and tablescapes?
Eeshaan Kashyap (EK): So, I think there’s no specific timeline or moment that led to a shift in my interests and the brand building. I’ve always been deeply involved in food and beverages, even as a trained chef, and I’ve been designing restaurants like Jamun and Pings across India. The lockdown provided me with the time to contemplate what I truly wanted to do. Design became a significant part of it. I perceive colour differently, working well with geometrical patterns and unorthodox combinations of materials and textures. The amalgamation of food as a narrative intrigued me. This fusion of food and design, along with mediums like photography, poetry, and light theatre, lets me explore various creative facets.
I don’t confine myself to being solely a product designer, chef, or curator, but rather an artist and designer who can fluidly move between these domains.
F: For each of these different segments that you dive into, like lights for example, where do you find inspiration for starting a new collection?
EK: Inspiration is everywhere for me. I don’t need to be on a special holiday or immersed in nature to draw from. Day-to-day life provides plenty of inspiration. I like to create current things and add newness to everyday experiences. Taking inspiration from both the past and present, I ensure there’s an element of surprise in whatever I create. Whether it’s a plate, a dish, or a table, I consider how it fits into someone’s life and brings value, joy, and happiness. I’m not just designing objects; I’m adding vibrancy, colour, and patterns.
F: Could you walk us through your creative process from the initial idea to the final execution of a table setting? How do you ensure your designs effectively communicate the desired narrative?
EK: When curating a table, I start by considering the people who will be sitting there. Their personalities and the mood of the evening influenced my design choices. Food and design should revolve around the guests, rather than mere objects. I always aim to break the mould, mix materials, and build tactile, experiential elements. For instance, I used the concept of architects building prototypes to guide a table setting for Pottery Barn. I wanted to bring an element of surprise to the table, making it interactive and enjoyable. Whether it’s using sarees as table drapes or incorporating rocks in a setting, the brand or event’s essence drives my creative process.
F: What are some challenges you face in translating your creative vision into tangible and visually stunning tablescapes?
EK: Technology is often a challenge. My initial ideas can be visually non-practical. I might want bread flying or an egg that reveals a message when broken. Translating these visions into reality while considering practicality and timelines is difficult. My team, however, is exceptional and can sometimes perform miracles within tight schedules. I work best when multitasking, and managing timelines and practicality is a constant juggling act.
F: What happens to all the food that goes into decorating the table?
EK: We’re conscious of minimizing waste. For example, when working on the concept of rotis for a table setting, we gathered leftover rotis from a shrine and rehydrated them with milk to create a unique tablecloth. We utilized all the food, often repurposing peels and leftovers for flavour trials and cocktails. We try to ensure nothing goes to waste and that it’s all used effectively. We even donated leftover food to animal shelters during heavy rains in Delhi.
F: Your style exudes sophistication while embracing delightful and surprising elements. How do you balance elegance with unexpected elements in your designs?
EK: I believe in unapologetically being yourself. I don’t adhere to boxes or categories. Instead, I follow my instincts, drawing inspiration from the crossroads of design, architecture, and my realm of randomness. Friends even humorously mention wanting to be my interns to attend weddings. In terms of food and beverage concepts for weddings, I work on about four to five weddings a year, and while I can’t showcase all of them, some are fascinating. At the core of it all, the idea is to consider the brand or the people and make their experience more experiential and engaging. The collaborative effort involves an army of dedicated individuals working behind the scenes.
F: It’s intriguing how you curate segments of events, particularly weddings. Could you explain more about your role in wedding design?
EK: Absolutely. My role focuses primarily on curating the food and beverage aspects of weddings. I serve as a food and beverage curator, elevating the overall wedding experience. We infuse a unique touch, transforming the narrative and engagement of both brands and weddings into something more experiential. Take, for instance, a recent wedding in Bali, where we integrated a gin fountain into the ceremony. We custom-designed bars, working on every aspect from paper to physical execution. With a production unit and a metal studio, we manage everything in-house. We also collaborate with ceramic studios across India for diversity in products and techniques. Our goal is to create an unforgettable experience for people attending these events.
F: Sustainability has become a significant concern in the industry. How do you incorporate sustainable elements into your work?
EK: Sustainability is a key consideration in our work. We collaborate with responsible partners who manage food wastage through NGOs, collecting excess food after events. We also encourage repurposing, such as letting attendees take home flowers after an event. Additionally, our materials and products are designed to be versatile and durable, promoting reusability. We also experiment with techniques and materials, sometimes melting and recycling prototypes that don’t meet our standards.
F: Social media plays a crucial role in promoting your brand and connecting with your audience. How do you utilize these platforms to showcase your work and engage with your audience?
EK: Our approach to social media is to share our work without overwhelming the audience with personal details. We showcase our creations and processes, aiming to resonate with a specific audience rather than trying to appeal to everyone. It’s a powerful tool that has connected us with incredible individuals, some with minimal follower counts but invaluable insights. While the reach is vast, I’m more focused on sharing my point of view rather than seeking validation through likes or numbers.
F: Your studio is known for its ever-changing and eclectic displays. How do you manage to keep your creations fresh and varied?
EK: Our studio’s dynamism comes from limited-edition creations and constant innovation. By not making everything available online and maintaining exclusivity, we retain a sense of novelty. While some designs may not resonate with everyone, that’s okay. Rejection is part of the process, and the uniqueness and experimentation that result from limited editions keep our work continually evolving.
F: Your approach to wedding design seems to challenge convention. Can you tell us more about how you create unconventional experiences?
EK: Absolutely. With weddings, my focus is on making the entire experience unconventional and memorable. For example, we recently did a wedding ceremony using innovative kinetic elements like gyroscopes and DNA-inspired structures. We blend technology, design, and storytelling to create an immersive atmosphere that resonates with the essence of the event or brand.
F: Your design ethos reflects an amalgamation of various mediums and influences. How do you navigate this complexity to maintain a coherent artistic voice?
EK: While my work involves various mediums and influences, the key is to ensure that every piece of concept resonates with my overarching design philosophy. The diversity stems from my desire to continually explore new avenues and push creative boundaries. It’s about embracing uniqueness and creating a tapestry where every piece contributes to a coherent artistic narrative.
F: I recall seeing your collaboration with the jewellery brand VRK. How did that partnership unfold, and what did you contribute to their endeavours?
EK: The collaboration with VRK was an exciting venture. The newer generation of the Khanna Jeweller family has been working diligently to infuse modernity into their brand’s timeless essence. Our collaboration aimed to translate this evolution into a dynamic and visually captivating window display. I designed a window that utilized the captivating ultramarine blue, which I’m particularly fond of. This window incorporated movement and a sense of dynamism, capturing attention and sparking intrigue. The response was quite positive, and it’s even interesting to note that a similar blue hue was later adopted by Dior for their window display, as conveyed to me by a friend.
F: It sounds like you’ve worked on a myriad of exciting projects. Can you share a particularly rewarding or memorable project that has stood out to you? What made it so special?
EK: One project that stands out to me is a wedding I worked on before the pandemic. It wasn’t about the budget, but the level of attention to detail that truly set it apart. Every element was meticulously designed and executed, from the shape of the chairs to the intricate embroidery on napkins. Even the smallest elements, such as the design of glass water bottles used to pick up guests from the airport, were thoughtfully curated. The wedding took place in Udaipur and left an indelible impression on me. Additionally, the presence of Ellie Goulding added an extra layer of uniqueness to the experience.
F: As a curator of special occasions and events, what are some key factors you take into consideration when crafting memorable experiences? How do you ensure that your design resonates with the essence of the event or celebration?
EK: Crafting memorable experiences involves considering every detail to ensure that it aligns with the essence of the event. From the shape of chairs to the intricacies of embroidery, each element plays a role in creating a cohesive atmosphere. Furthermore, the design should not only be visually stunning but also immersive, engaging all senses. Ultimately, the goal is to weave together a narrative that speaks to the occasion’s significance and leaves a lasting impact on attendees.
F: Over the years, how have culinary design trends evolved, particularly in terms of table decor and presentation?
EK: The realm of culinary design has witnessed several noteworthy shifts, especially in table decor and presentation. The trend is moving towards a more modern, progressive aesthetic that embraces simplicity and comfort. Tablescape design has become a buzzword, capturing the essence of contemporary settings. It’s about creating an inviting environment that resonates with the surroundings and fosters a sense of connection. Additionally, there’s a growing demand for products such as candle stands and versatile bowls, which are both functional and aesthetically appealing.
F: Is your design approach best described as minimalism, esoteric, or somewhere in between?
EK: I would characterize my design approach as bold. It’s about making a statement that’s hard to ignore. While minimalism is often the starting point, my designs evolve to reflect the personality and vibrancy of the occasion. Colours and distinctive elements come into play, creating a unique and captivating visual experience.
F: As an experienced professional in the culinary design field, what advice would you offer to aspiring designers interested in exploring the world of table decor and event design? Are there any valuable lessons from your journey that you’d like to share?
EK: My advice to aspiring designers is to draw inspiration from their surroundings and embrace the uniqueness of each event. Whether you’re in a village or a city, there’s beauty in the resources available to you. Break free from the confines of editorial aesthetics and design something relatable and authentic. Remember that it’s not just about the design; it’s the people who bring life to the table. Capture the memories and moments that unfold around the table, for they are just as valuable as the design itself. Embrace the journey, learn from the challenges, and always keep evolving.
F: I’m curious about your design contemporaries. Are there any designers whose work you admire or find inspiring?
EK: There’s one designer who truly captivates me, and I find myself drawn to his work. His name is Axel Vervoordt. He is a source of immense inspiration for me. In fact, for my recent birthday, I treated myself to a bucket list experience by visiting his studio in Antwerp. Axel’s approach to design is simply remarkable. He’s a master of maximalism, yet he manages to distil it into a single point. It’s an explosion of maximalism, curated and contained with finesse. Visiting his studio was an incredible journey into the essence of design. His mastery lies in his ability to create a sense of tranquillity and balance amidst intricate maximalism. He’s truly an anchor of design perspective.
F: It sounds like Axel Vervoordt’s work left a profound impact on you. Could you share more about his style and design philosophy?
EK: Absolutely, Axel Vervoordt’s work is deeply rooted in the concept of “Wabi-Sabi.” He pioneered this philosophy in a physical format, marrying it with maximalism to create a unique design language. His designs are characterized by their simplicity, use of raw materials, and a sense of timelessness. What amazes me is his ability to infuse complexity into a single point, a skill honed through age and experience. His work exudes a sense of tranquillity and authenticity, yet it’s far from minimalist. It’s interesting how he encapsulates this philosophy, which he initiated 25 to 30 years ago, and how it has now evolved into a widespread design trend.
F: Your involvement with Pottery Barn’s activity and your mention of Pinterest is intriguing. Could you elaborate on the activity and the impact of platforms like Pinterest on design choices?
EK: Certainly. We had an interesting activity with Pottery Barn where participants were asked to create an object using Pottery Barn Studio’s upholstery materials while also incorporating a component of food. This combination led to fascinating results, such as using stacked vegetables or salads as design elements. Regarding Pinterest and its impact on design, it’s remarkable how this platform has influenced design choices. Many clients approach us with images from Pinterest, seeking to replicate those designs. While these images showcase great taste, they often include elements that might not be feasible in the Indian context. It’s essential to adapt these concepts to local resources and conditions. Pinterest has undoubtedly made design more accessible, but it’s crucial to balance inspiration with practicality and the unique requirements of each project.
F: It’s fascinating how evolving lifestyles and preferences are shaping design choices. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your journey and perspective on design?
EK: Absolutely. I believe that design is a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. It’s important to remain open to new experiences, unlearn conventions, and engage with design in an organic and relatable way. As designers, we should draw inspiration from our surroundings, incorporating the uniqueness of each space into our creations. Embracing challenges and evolving with them is key to staying relevant in the ever-changing design landscape. Design is a dynamic process that allows us to weave stories, memories, and emotions into tangible and memorable experiences.
Eeshaan Kashyap’s journey into the realms of culinary and product design unveils a world where artistry meets practicality, where tablescapes are laden with stories, and where maximalism finds its calm amidst the chaos. His dedication to unlearning conventions, while staying true to his roots, paints a vivid picture of a designer who creates objects and experiences. With an eye on the future and a reverence for the past, Kashyap’s designs resonate with authenticity, inviting us all to find beauty in the intricate details of life.
Images: Eeshaan Kashyap