From Palette to Plate

Chattanooga Chefs and Artists Pair Their Crafts to Feed the Senses

An explosion of taste and talent, the intersection between art and food is paved with creativity. Though not oft compared, the similarities between artist and chef inspire a mutual respect and adoration for one another’s art form. To highlight both, we asked 5 local chefs to reimagine the paintings of 5 local artists as edible creations.


“Good food, like good art, is aware of its environment and can create memories and evoke feelings in much the same way.”

Max Levai, Director, Marlborough Contemporary


By Lucy Morris  |   Photography by Rich Smith

paining of poppies and artistic food dish inspired by the painting by chattanooga artist and chef

A Pop of Color


“This piece was painted after a trip to Charlevoix, Michigan, with my painting group, the Traveling Paints. While Chattanooga was experiencing hot, muggy summer days, the air and sky were clear and crisp in Charlevoix. The plants and flowers thrive on the cool mornings and bright sunshine. On an early walk, I discovered a cluster of poppies illuminated by the morning sun. I chose to paint the poppies in egg tempera, which is a very old medium using egg yolk, pigment, and water. Just like a chef, interesting ‘ingredients’ can also be an inspiration to the artist. The sheer, paper-like quality of the salmon pink poppies lends itself to the thin layering technique of egg tempera. Unique and different tools and mediums have always interested me almost as much as the subject itself. With this painting, I have satisfied both my love of the subject as well as my fascination with the ingredients of art.”


Rebecca Barron Executive Chef, St. John’s Restaurant local chattanooga chef

Rebecca Barron
Executive Chef,
St. John’s Restaurant

“I really enjoy brightly colored food, so this painting really resonated with me. I was inspired by the coral colored poppy, and I instantly thought of tuna sashimi. Raw fish is a favorite of mine, so I’m thrilled anytime I get to play around with it. I like to think very seasonally and of the moment, and ramps just arrived this week, so I knew that would be my green color. Additionally, black food has been on my mind for quite a while — it’s been super fun to experiment with. I used squid ink to color the yogurt in this dish, but I’ve also used charcoal powder made from coconuts before.” 

painting and food dish inspired by based on it by chattanooga artist and chef


Life Lessons


“This piece was a mantra to remind myself it would be okay, whatever it was.

A friend of mine was going through something really tough, and the words came to me:

It’s okay… you are enough. It’s okay, whatever it is. Sometimes we all have to remind ourselves, ‘its okay.’

There’s a collective of selves within my mind and heart that constantly meet with my spirit and have to remind me of things like this. That it’s all okay, that I’m made brilliantly, that I’m human, that I can do anything.”



Dao Le Executive Chef, Bridgeman’s Chophouse local chattanooga chef

Dao Le
Executive Chef,
Bridgeman’s Chophouse

“The colors in this painting, with shades representing both sadness and hope, inspired me. To me, the black and red represent when things are going wrong, and life is upside down. The gray represents the in-between state with a hint of brightness in sight. Then come the rays of yellow and blue, giving happiness, hope, and light. The words remind us that we are all human. Life has not only ups and downs but also curves, peaks, and valleys. To make mistakes and worry is human, and that’s who we are. Life is just full of amazing lessons and journeys. For this project, I selected ingredients with rich colors to highlight those peaks, curves, ups, and downs. This piece taught me that there is hope and that whatever it is, it’s OK AND TEMPORARY. Don’t let your TEMPORARY be your permanent.”

painting of three girls and food dish inspired by based on the art by local chattanooga artist and chef


Memories in the Making


“I have always tended to work with imagery that evokes nostalgia and memories from the past. Sometimes it has been my pets, sometimes special people in my life or places I remember. This painting was inspired by my two sisters along with myself who make up the three figures in the painting. I grew up in the era of paper dolls and paper chain cutouts, and I sought to bring that imagery to the present in this painting by connecting the three figures holding hands. Using a semi-abstract method, I incorporate a sense of mystery to spark the viewer’s memory and their own interpretation of the image rather than spell out my memories in a super realistic way.”




Kevin Korman Executive Chef, Whitebird local chattanooga headshot

Kevin Korman
Executive Chef,

“The silhouettes of the children reminded me of my own daughters, but also reminded me of an agricultural term called ‘three sisters.’ This is an homage to the Cherokee method of growing squash, corn, and beans together, so I made a succotash out of those ingredients. The corn was used to tie into the subtle yellow strokes in the painting. We tend to have a lot of items on our menus that utilize the color violet, such as the roasted beet, fig, and blackberry purée that I used for this dish. Seafood, in my opinion, is very delicate in texture but also requires a subtle hand when cooking, making me think of it as a feminine ingredient. Therefore, I chose scallops to represent the three girls. To tie into the ash color of the shadows, I made an oil infused with dried black lime, which pairs nicely with the seafood and beets.”

painting and food dish inspired by based on artwork by chattanooga artist and chef


Attaining Enlightenment


“This oil painting is part of a 12-painting series titled ‘Sapiykunapaq: My Roots, Mis Raíces’ in which I depicted the many cultures and ethnicities that influenced today’s Peru. In recent years, the Shipibo-Conibo women have employed the visual arts and ceramics as a tool to empower, lead, sustain their households, and fight for gender equality within their tribe. They fight for women’s rights, human rights, and against deforestation. In this painting I not only strived to highlight their beautiful textile art (background) but also made her the central focus of the painting. Her pose and rich, warm colors define the message that she’s the healer and the source of knowledge and wisdom.”



Wesley True Executive Chef, Bald Headed Bistro local chef headshot chattanooga

Wesley True
Executive Chef,
Bald Headed Bistro

“The bright colors and bold patterns of this painting really inspired me and brought this dish to fruition. I chose to plate the dessert on this serving piece because the coloring is almost an exact match for the orange featured in the painting’s background motif. Additionally, the clay it’s created from is a nod to the cultural representations in the piece. I feel the earth tones lend themselves well to the açai sorbet, and the blueberries and raspberries add that extra punch of color you see in the painting.”

painting and food dish inspired by based on the artwork by local chattanooga chef and artist


Imperfect Permanence


“This piece, like most of my work, is made of found materials, interesting papers, paints, fragments, and things I’ve collected along the way. ‘The Cat that Swallowed the Canary’ is mixed media on an antique map, full of scratch marks, arrows, and numbers someone made navigating waterways a long time ago. It presents a rhythm of imperfect patterns, evidence of the passage of time. The yellow paint was given to me, and frankly I didn’t know what to do with it. With no room to erase or go back, I made the largest mark I could with only two brushstrokes. The color sings with certainty, though I possessed none of that at the time.”




Erik Niel Executive Chef, Easy Bistro & Bar local chattanooga headshot

Erik Niel
Executive Chef,
Easy Bistro & Bar

“There is a beautiful energy in Addie’s piece ‘The Cat that Swallowed the Canary.’  It has a movement to it that I found to be analogous to the movement I like to try and create in plate presentations. While I have always been drawn to the ephemeral nature of food presentations, I really enjoy the permanence of Addie’s piece.  It has a presence that is captivating, and I really like the way it held my attention as I tried to use it as a guide to create the dish.” CS

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