Food

Symmetry breakfasts: the man behind the hit Instagram account picks his favourite and most beautiful dishes

Posted by
Harriet Hall
Published

We all know people love to post their food on Instagram. And people love to see other people’s food on Instagram, too. It’s a baffling fact of the modern age.

But when the boundaries between food and art are blurred, it's less about observing someone’s lunch and more about witnessing the creativity of the internet age.  

This is where Symmetry Breakfast comes in.

What started as a single Instagram snap has now become something of an internet phenomenon, boasting over 600, 000 followers, an accompanying blog and now a book

The account was created by Michael Zee after making breakfast for his partner one day. Noticing that the two meals were identical, Michael took a snap and posted it to Instagram.

“I started making breakfasts for Mark when he moved in with me in 2013. At the time, he was in a job that meant he was always in the office but the only time I knew I would see him everyday was at breakfast,” Michael tells Stylist.

Within weeks, Michael had amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram as his creative, precisely arranged snaps struck a chord with foodies around the world.

Now, every morning, Michael makes two identical breakfasts for himself and Mark, and photographs them for his accounts. The project now incorporates food from around the world from pastries to arepas, and encourages us to expand our plates beyond beans on toast – while presenting a beautiful image.

“I wanted to make our mornings together special and it wasn’t before long I started taking photos of what I was cooking up and posting them to Instagram,” says Michael.

“After a few months I set up @symmetrybreakfast. I had no idea it would be so popular, I left my job at the V&A last year to take food full time.”

Here Michael talks us through some of his favourite breakfast snaps. 

You can pre-order Michael's book, Symmetry Breakfast: Cook-Love-Share here, which showcases breakfasts from the couple’s travels around the world. 

  • Japanese breakfast

    Michael says: “I think sometimes we (the Western world) look at Japanese culture with such alien eyes. The level of precision and skil that is given to preparing and serving food is astonishing, sometimes I feel that culinary perfection is possible. In Japan a typical breakfast will almost always include rice, fish, pickles, tea and miso soup. It has as many components as a Full English breakfast without the greasy weight.”

  • Idli

    Michael says: “An everyday breakfast in South India, Idli are fermemted rice batter pancakes that resemble UFOs and are accompanied with a spicy stew called sambar. At any one time there will be a batch of batter on the go, ready to consume the next day, the process is similar to making sourdough bread.”

  • Baghdad Baid Masus

    Michael says: “This recipe literally translates as Special Eggs from Baghdad and I found it in a 900 year old Arab cookery manual. A few years later I found it again in a book called How to Milk an Almond, Stuff an Egg and Armor a Turnip by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook. I love that even over many centuries, some flavour combinations still work a treat.”

  • Roht

    Michael says: “One of my favourites and one of the easiest recipes from the book. This spiced cardamom bread from Afghanistan is easy to whip up and delicious for breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. Make sure you cut it into diamonds for maximum authenticity.”

  • Beetroot crepes

    Michael says: “I spend a lot of my spare time browsing the shelves in shops and supermarkets. Sometimes I'll buy something, even if I'm not entirely sure what it is or what to do with it. These crepes were born out of purchasing beetroot powder from a health food shop and adding it to the crepe batter. Even if there are no health benefits, they're still beautiful.”

  • Black sesame buns

    Michael says: “I've always grown up with delicious steamed buns. My grandfather was from Shanghai and emigrated to UK during the Second World War. One of my earliest memories is going to a Chinese book shop in Liverpool that also sold the best charsui baos. Sadly the shop is long gone but I often make my own buns at home. These are black sesame paste dough with creme patisserie inside for a sweet treat.”

  • A river of breakfast

    Michael says: “This breakfast was entirely inspired by the plates designed by Billy Lloyd @billylloyddesign. Each plate makes up a circle but can be reconfigured to have an undulating river of plates that are wonderful as a party centrepiece down a table.”

  • Scotch woodcock

    Michael says: “A long forgotten classic. This is actually an after dinner savoury, enjoyed by Victorians who prefered to end the evening with a savoury bite rather than sweet.”

  • Beghrir: Moroccan pancakes

    Michael says: “In the same family of pancakes as pikelets and crumpets, Beghrir are found across Morocco and Algeria and served simply with butter and honey. Best enjoyed with hot black tea or fresh mint tea.”

  • Matcha Hong Kong waffles

    Michael says: “We first encountered Hong Kong Egg Waffles in Beijing Airport, we had arrived early to get our flight home and after a quick browse of what was on offer in one of the biggest airports I've ever been in we found what looked like something from a science fiction movie. They were even served with a disposable plastic glove. Personally, I've been drinking matcha for years before it was cool but only recently started cooking with it. I get cooking matcha from Tombo as it contains chlorella to help preserve the green colour when baking.”