Gourmet grand designs: inside the world of Instagram's most spectacular food art

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Anna Brech
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Before the days of Instagram, a creative flourish of parmesan was all we needed to make a dish shine. Perhaps if we were feeling especially daring, we’d chuck in a half a tomato clumsily moulded into the shape of a flower.

But the dawn of the eponymous photo-sharing platform has changed everything as far as grand culinary creations are concerned.

We’re no longer satisfied with arrabiata sauce that doesn’t spill over the edge. An artistic smattering of rainbow chard salad won’t cut it anymore.

A new generation of super-skilled foodie architects are in town – and they mean business. 

This talented crew of gourmet artists will spend hours fine-tuning the detail of their edible masterpieces, whether that’s honing a multicoloured motif for a new level of latte art or shaving ginger over tiny scallops to create miniature sushi doughnuts. 

The level of imagination and flair that go into these creations is quite breathtaking and will make even the keenest effort on Come Dine With Me seem lacklustre in comparison.

We’ve scoured Instagram for the most impressive feats of gastronomic craftsmanship; the Notre Dames of food, if you will. Come discover the fabulous folk who are taking culinary design to a whole new level…

The miniaturist

Italian pastry chef Matteo Stucchi, from the northern Lake Como town of Monza, creates enchanting scenes of childhood delight from biscotti, profiteroles, doughnuts and other delectable treats.

To peruse his Instagram feed, @idolcidigulliver, is to step into a whimsical world of ponds made out of oozing ganache, a Ferris wheel crafted from cake pops and a delicate autumnal tree designed from chocolate and sugar-coated peaches. 

Little figures are added to the sculptures to bring them to life. There’s a tiny man weightlifting barbells made out of macarons and two adventurers on camels crossing a ‘desert’ of golden bakes. 

His creations are full of humour and mischief, with a fine eye for offbeat scenarios.

"A dessert's look is just as important as its taste," says the 24-year-old artist. We couldn’t agree more.

The salad cake sculptor 

Japanese food stylist Mitsuki Moriyasu made headlines last year after snaps of her beautifully cultivated ‘salad cakes’ were shared on social media.

Her sumptuous feasts feature a kaleidoscope of vivid colours and textures, and are actually nutritional veg cleverly disguised as lavish desserts.

Look closely, and you will see ‘icing’ is created from the likes of brilliant pink radish slices, tofu mousse and lilac-dyed cauliflower.

The overall effect is quite magnificent, and worthy of a photo opportunity in itself; even without the added bonus of the vitamin hit you’d get from eating it.

Mitsuki uses natural, vegetable-derived colouring to give her creations their distinctive hue.

"To make the salad cake, we use a sponge base. The sponge is made out of soy powder, eggs and vegetable oil," the talented stylist said, in a CNN-translated interview.

"The inside of the cake is built with layers of marinated, diced and cooked vegetables, the cake is decorated on the outside with tofu cream."

Mitsuki’s hybrids are such a hit, she opened a cafe to serve them from in Nagoya, Japan. She exhibits her hybrid delights on her Instagram page, @vegedecosalad.

The amethyst artist

US-based baker Rachael Teufel set the world of decorating alight after she posted a snap on Instagram of her show-stopping sugar amethyst geode cake.

Rachael crafted the innovative (and entirely edible) geode design from a combination of granulated sugar and rock candy, which was then manipulated into shape using multicoloured crafting chocolate.

She finished off the wow effect with gold and silver leaf detail.

The composition went viral and was snapped up by the wedding industry, as brides everywhere ditched vanilla-bean frosting for the razzmatazz of artisan crystals.

“I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to cakes and prefer to make everything edible whenever possible, so I set out to create a cake that looked like a real geode but wanted it to be completely edible,” Rachael says. “As someone that loves to experiment with new concepts, I started to play with sugar crystals to see what I could come up with. Sugar crystals are certainly nothing new, but it’s been fun trying to find different ways to use them.” 

The amethyst specialist holds regular workshops from her company, Intricate Icings Cake Design, to spread the word on this dramatic piece of dessert architecture.

The doughnut guru

Melbourne-based vegan chef and author Sam Murphy held the foodies everywhere in thrall with her lust-worthy sushi doughnut inventions.

The seriously good-looking pieces of sushi art were unveiled on her Instagram account, @sobeautifullyreal, last year.

Sam crafts the bite-sized delicacies using small doughnut moulds, and decorates them using sesame seeds, ginger, wasabi and avocado.

Their miniature appeal sparked a host of lookalike designs, in a fast-moving trend that Instagram sought to embrace with open arms. Even restaurants got in on the action, creating menus dedicated to sushi doughnuts.

"I'm aware that it's not the most practical way to eat sushi," says 24-year-old Sam. “I like to be adventurous and create visually appealing food that also tastes good.”

The colourist 

Sure, latte art is a bit two years ago – but not when you add colour into the equation.

Barista Mason Salisbury from Las Vegas took his artistry to a whole new dimension by adding a rainbow-flecked dash of food dye to everyday designs.

The result? Wondrous threads of turquoise, scarlet and honey-yellow coffee froth blending to form latte leaves as you’ve never seen before.

Posting the snaps on his Instagram feed, Mason expressed a desire merely to “mix things up” and “create something different for you guys”.

His rainbow lattes cover everything from swans to flower designs, and come in a multitude of colours, whether that’s Andy Warhol-esque pinks and purples or vivid greens and creams.

Mason pioneered his caffeinated gems by adding various fusions of food colouring into steamed milk.

The fruit’n’veg architect

The humble protagonists of the fruit and veg stall are given starring roles in the hands of Japanese artist Gaku.

His intricately conceived linear designs, showcased on his Instagram account, would give William Morris a run for his money.

Strawberry innards are carved into a labyrinth of sophisticated patterns. Half an apple is transformed into a baroque monument. Broccoli becomes a woodland tree, engraved with a criss-cross of exquisite detail.

Etched radishes take on a romantic, dreamy element (and that’s a difficult thing for radishes to do).

Forget pumpkin carving: this is veg sculpture of an astonishing variety.

The risk of oxidisation means Gaku’s subjects must be carved within minutes of cutting or peeling them. And once he’s done, he mostly eats them. 

His hobby derives from the time-honoured Japanese practice of mukimono, where fruits and vegetables are carved into ethereal scallops. 

The avocado artisan

And finally, with sales of avocado rocketing in the past year, kudos must go to the woman who found a whole new way of presenting them.

Step forward Amsterdam-based food blogger Colette Dike, who has wowed Instagrammers far and wide with her unique, finely-honed ability to shape avocados. 

Perhaps top of the list in terms of design is Colette’s avocado roses, which have clocked up thousands of likes on her Instagram account, @fooddeco.

Swirls and hearts also feature in the food stylist’s blossoming avocado repertoire.

And all of these standout compositions find their mark as the final, artistic flourish to Colette’s dishes, from kale and parmesan salad served in a coconut bowl to a veggie fried breakfast. 

“Avocados are very healthy and very photogenic,” says Colette. “With all the styling possibilities – from shaved avocado, avocado rose and avocado dots – they make the perfect styling component for home-cooked diners.

“Quite often, avocado is the absolute hero of the dish.”

Images: Instagram

The art of water

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.