For a town as in love with food as New York City, it might be surprising that we don't have more edible art displays. But, according to "Fries of New York" curator Scott Norton, getting the 100 or so eateries onboard wasn't easy.
"It hasn't been done before so there is no kind of rule book; you have to explain and show people what you were doing," he said of approaching chefs, many of whom were leery about putting their fries in a gallery. A common concern Norton heard: "We do so many amazing things with our menu; I don't necessarily want to highlight the French fries."
But after three months of work, "Fries of New York" is open this weekend only, Nov. 7-8 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 168 Bowery. The displays actually consists of a single fry taken from an order of fries. Norton called the exhibit "a very straightforward concept that's highlighted in an very unusual way."
The skinny, rectangular fry was by far the most prevalent style, though some restaurants filled up their display cards with information about perfectly sizing them and changing the oil daily, while others went with a simple "Straight cut," like there was no reason to explain or justify the fact that this is how fries ought to be.
Papaya King contributed the lone curly fry to the display. (Does that mean it's due to be back in style any minute?)
Norton, in green, is the co-founder of Sir Kensington's, a New York-based maker of condiments, chief among them ketchup. Behind him is Chef Kert Eggers, whose team served up the spiral-cut and skewered fry of the evening, from Twist & Smash'd.
Passers-by invariably paused to look, since we looked to be either doing Something Important With Food or filming a gag for a candid camera show.
The DJ wore a cardigan, mais oui.
Many of the attendees at Thursday night's preview were the owners and chefs of the restaurants who'd contributed to the exhibit. Siham Fawzi of La Frite walked all the way around the room before finding her fry, which had just been voted best in the city by the Village Voice. However, La Frite actually serves two kinds of fries - Fawzi is Dutch, and her husband is French, and there is a dispute between them about the optimal thickness of the ideal fry. Though they don't know which fry won them the title, it's Fawzi's thicker variety that made it into the gallery.
"I love all fries but I have an interest in the fries that are edge cases," Norton says.
Part history lesson, science fair project and art show, "Fries of New York" may have one main goal: helping you decide where to go for dinner tomorrow night. And in this city, that's always valuable advice.