Curating Culinary Excellence

Dustin Van Orne

In museum restaurants, food mirrors art.

In museum restaurants, food mirrors art.

Museum restaurants provide an optimum venue for displaying the artistic attributes of cuisine. From Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum to Virginia’s Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, a number have struck the perfect blend of food and design.

Getting it Wright

The Wright opened in 2009 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on a mission to provide premier cuisine and service in an upscale environment within a world-famous museum.

Since then, The Wright received the 2010 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design, and in 2011, received a 20+ rating in the Zagat Survey for its new American cuisine. Opened to the public for lunch and Sunday brunch only, the dinner hours are reserved exclusively for private parties.

Executive chef Rodolfo Contreras, raised in Mexico City, stepped into the restaurant business at the age of 9, working for his mother’s catering service. As a graduate of New York City’s French Culinary Institute, Contreras’ modern and light dishes establish a menu that reflects culinary vision.

“We always look to tie in one or two menu items that resemble our current exhibit,” says Contreras. “I use fresh ingredients to create beautiful food that’s intriguing to guests, much like art. For instance, my Yellow and Red Tomato Gazpacho reminds me of the spiraling ramps of the museum.”

Testament to the synergy of design and food coming together, Contreras says, “The presentation of the food is one of the most important things to me as a chef, and one of the most enjoyable.”

Multi-Sensory Menus

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), in Richmond, reopened its doors on May 1, 2010, following a five-year renovation period and the biggest expansion in the museum’s 76-year history. The renovation included a new gallery and special event space with a full-service dining facility, the Amuse Restaurant.

Designed by Rick Mather, a London-based architect, the post-modern addition is constructed of steel, concrete, and glass. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls create a dramatic first impression showcasing the Sculpture Garden to the west and providing the best view of Richmond’s historic Museum District neighborhood, along with a panoramic view of the entire city.


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