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Art You Can Eat

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Artists’ Corner: Martha Tiffany – Flavourful visual presentation

Photography courtesy of the artist 

Upon hearing the word ‘artist,’ the majority would envision an individual who practices one of the traditional mediums such as visual arts, music, sculpting, or perhaps acting – rarely is the term associated with other disciplines; however, when you are presented with a dish at a restaurant which has been carefully crafted to be visually appealing, it is clear food presentation—especially desserts—is in fact a form of art.

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Martha Tiffany served as the executive pastry chef at The Dove Restaurant and Wine Bar for the 2014-2015 high season, and is proud to be the artist behind the picturesque displays of delicious sweets which taste just as outstanding as they look.

Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Martha obtained her education at the University of Cincinnati, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurial Business, followed by an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts from the Midwest Culinary institute.

 “I’ve always had a sweet tooth. As a child I would hide a bag of powdered sugar under my bed and eat it with a spoon,” said Martha.

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It is no surprise that Martha is a passionate visual artist, particularly drawing on Realism, but she decided to choose a career in the culinary profession instead. She admitted that her background and love for visual arts has played a significant role in the creation and presentation of her pastries.

Like a traditional artist, Martha carries a sketchbook of recipes wherever she goes, where she jots down ideas for flavour combinations, pictures of presentation, and even an idea of the quantities she will use. 

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Martha believes that the visual appeal of a dish, and especially a dessert, is important not only to the chef who is allowed more creativity, but also to the customer who is made intrigued by something edible for more than just the taste. “People eat with their eyes first. But the trick to artistic culinary skills is to learn to balance great flavours with beautiful presentation,” said Martha with a smile.

A typical day preparing pastries for Martha begins in the early afternoon when she takes out the icings and desserts she has prepared the night before and organises them in the fridge. She then warms her cakes and custards in the oven, but on days when she makes desserts from scratch, it can take up to four hours.

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Martha is a fan of accompanying her desserts with fresh fruit, edible flowers, and a delicious sauce or two. During the dinner rush, the chef is in charge of confirming her desserts have immaculate visual presentation.

The creations on Martha’s menu alter on a weekly basis. Flavoured creme brûlée, coconut cake, and a choice of sorbets are usually a standard with an additional two to four desserts allowing her to get creative and draw from her own imagination or the Instagram accounts of the ‘dessert masters:’ “Following other chefs is like reading a favourite author. Like you enjoy someone’s particular style of writing, you will have a preference over certain chefs’ presentation and recipes.”

For her boyfriend’s birthday, Martha perfected an exclusive recipe for an eye-catching goat cheese cheesecake with hibiscus soursop jam, accompanied by rich custard-filled éclairs dipped in dark chocolate.

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The pastry chef herself is as sweet as the desserts she prepares, always cheerful and enthusiastic to greet guests when she proudly shares her beautiful creations. Those who can’t get enough of Martha’s desserts can keep up to date with her latest works of delicious art by following her Instagram, MAR_MAR_TIFFANY.

Lauren Charley

Lauren Charley

Writer at aLookingGlass
Lauren graduated with an Honours B.A. in Media Studies from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She has worked as a feature magazine writer, where many of her stories pertained to events, people, activities, and places in popular tourist destinations.

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