Museum food sparks the palate and the mind.
By Deborah Grossman
setting. Then I ate at The Restaurant and
knew this is where I wanted to cook. I started
as an intern—and now I have my dream job
as executive chef with the Bon Appétit team.”
MUSEUM FOOD is a culinary genre
unto itself. Working side by side with busy
institutions displaying art and science to the
world is an unusual experience for chefs.
Jesse Cool never dreamt about owning a
cafe at an art museum. She was content
with her successful focus on organic cuisine
at Flea St. Café and CoolEatz catering in
Menlo Park, Calif. That is, until she heard
that Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.,
was considering Wolfgang Puck to run its
restaurant at the Cantor Arts Center. She
put in her bid, thinking the university might
value her approach to cooking.
A decade later, visitors flock to Cool Café
near the Rodin Sculpture Garden. “People
come to the Cantor to see beauty—and that
includes the beauty of local food,” says Cool.
The epiphany on museum cooking hit Mayet
Cristobal when she first stepped into the
Getty Center in Los Angeles. “As a culinary
student and recent transplant from Alaska, I
was enthralled with the Getty art and hilltop
Bon Appétit Management Co., based in Palo
Alto, manages 400 kitchens, including eight
museums. At the Getty, Cristobal oversees
The Restaurant, Garden Terrace Café, food
carts and the nearby Cafe at the Getty Villa.
Many visitors do not know the local area and
would find it difficult to find food nearby.
At museums around the country, visitors
select from a mix of micro food carts, ever-changing buffets and white-tablecloth fine
dining. Many museum chefs launch food
A family enjoys a meal at Cleo’s Portico,
which opened for the world premiere
of “Cleopatra: The Search for the Last
Queen of Egypt” at The Franklin Institute.