Cooking with lava: Sam Bompas

Sam Bompas

Ben Ottewell

Sam Bompas is speaking at Wired2014 on
16-17 October. Tickets are on sale now: see for a full speaker list and further
information. Wired Subscribers receive a 10 percent

There’s a small chance that you’ve heard of — or if you’re
lucky enough experienced — one of the events that sensory artist
Sam Bompas has been involved in. Together with his cofounder Harry
Parr and their team of 12, Bompas & Parr have been responsible
for explosive wedding cakes, Willy Wonka-style chewing gum, a giant punch bowl containing 4,000 litres of brandy cocktail, or the most talked about vapourised gin and tonic.

Bompas and his team love being a part of new experiences, which
explains their foray into experiences outside of the culinary, like
the bouncy castle of inflatable breasts and the gherkin chandelier. Requests sent in to his team are quite
varied, from art galleries and big brands to “very personal and
sometimes intimate ones as well.”

Budgets for these are just as diverse, from “enormous budgets
with massive global brands working on a global scale” to projects
the company helps fund itself. “It’s thinking about how you can do
some things that people look forward to and give them an
interesting experience, whatever the budget,” Bompas adds. “It’s
also got to be better, more innovative or extraordinary because the
expectations are very high.”

Plant Connoisseurs Club, their current event running at Kew
Gardens in London, combines the “principles of rock and roll
applied to gardening”. “What I thought would be really interesting
is if people could actually try and sample unexpected and unusual
stimulating psychoactive plants,” he explains. “There are many that
are used very commonly, very widely found in other cultures around
the world, but are not illegal.”

With the easy part out of the way, it then comes down to health
and safety checks, which are crucial. “That took a long time…a good
six months,” Bompas acknowledges. “We’re doing something else at
the moment that stimulates people’s temporal and parietal lobes,
which are part of the main sensory experience. If you’re mucking
around people’s brains you need quite a lot of research and health
and safety information. Our insurance document is quite a

Collaborations are a key element to his team, who seek out
experts in the field to help out with an idea — in the hopes to
merge food and neuroscience, for example. The collaboration can end
up helping out both parties as well. “In the last week I’ve spoken
with one professor who’s an expert in plasma, and a molecular
biologist who specialises in GM, so we’re looking at genetic
modification and doing GM in an artistic context,” Bompas

Another recent collaboration took them to the US to see if they
could cook steak using man-made lava from a blast furnace. “Because
a BBQ smokes a lot, with lava you’re getting pure intense heat
without any of the smoke, and you end up with these very clean
flavours in the meat,” he says. “The food was brilliant.”

Bompas yearns to bring this successful experiment to a wider
audience. “We want to run a big party for about 500 people, using
lava not only for cooking but for heating up hot tubs, driving,
powering the event and so on,” he adds.

When asked about what to expect at his talk at the upcoming WIRED2014 event next month, Bompas answers: “I want
to do something completely new just for the conference, but I don’t
know what it is just yet.”

Sam Bompas is speaking at WIRED2014 on
16-17 October. Tickets are on sale now: see for a full speaker list and further
information. Wired Subscribers receive a 10 percent

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26 September 2014 | 10:36 am – Source:


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