You know them, you love them. Baking shows are a tried and true television niche, capturing the hearts and stomachs of viewers everywhere. Add classic Disney characters into the mix, and you’ve got a whole new level of sweetness. That’s exactly what the new Disney+ Original Series, Foodtastic, is doing in its debut season.
Foodtastic is more than just another cooking competition. It’s upping the ante on the level of creativity in the realm of “food art.” The series features highly skilled artists — sometimes the art seems far more vital than flavor, which you may or may not mind, depending on why you’re watching — vying to make larger-than-life sculptures made entirely out of dessert. Food art experts, including FLOUR SHOP founder Amirah Kassem and NYC’s City Cakes founder Chef Benny Rivera, join Emmy Award winner Keke Palmer in judging the contestants’ work and deciding who comes out on top.
This week, with everyone baking and in full holiday mode, we caught up with Rivera to learn more about the world of food art and how you can create your own beautifully curated recipes at home. Check out the conversation below, along with photos from Foodtastic on Disney+.
To start, why do you think it’s important for a show like Foodtastic to bring awareness to the food art community and movement?
Oh my God. It’s just like, this is the best and the perfect opportunity to showcase this type of artistry to the world. The market has been saturated with traditional baking competitions or cake competitions. Don’t get me wrong, I like them. But it is the first time we are gonna have a food art show where we can show the people the beautiful pieces that people are capable to create using different types of food. I mean, people will never think that food can be transformed in such a beautiful way. And this is the perfect show to show that to the public.
Contestants on the show are designing cakes and food that most people probably aren’t cooking in their own homes. So what’s the approach to the show that people can really learn from? In other words, what can viewers really take away from watching Foodtastic?
Yes, the artists are gonna be creating larger-than-life pieces of art with different types of food, but the message also is that there’s beauty within each piece of food or different type of media. At home, you can even create some beautiful plates, and that doesn’t mean necessarily that you have to create a crazy sculpted piece of art. There are beautiful fruits and vegetables, and you can bring that beauty to the plate when you set up and serve your plate.
One of the intentions of the show is to make people aware of the beauty of each food medium that everyone can be using.
With the holidays coming up, people are going to be decorating cakes and cookies, along with nice meals for family dinners. Do you have any simple tips and tricks for people decorating at home? How they can make their plates more beautiful than they typically would?
Well, it’s all about the placement. I mean, sometimes when we are in rush, we tend to just chop the food and put it on the plates. And that’s it. But try taking the time to arrange. For example, if you are serving rice, just put the rice in a beautiful round cup. Then just flip the cup on the plate and decorate the surrounding areas around the rice with all the vegetables that you’re gonna use. It’s gonna be a beautiful presentation. It just takes something simple like that.
With TikTok and reels, social media has really been blowing up different niche audiences. How do you think social media has played a role in the cake decorating movement this year, specifically when it comes to hyper-realistic cakes?
It’s huge. The media is just huge, not only in this field but in any type of field. Within the cake industry, we have been using it to present people with how awesome the medium is to create. Like you say, people are blown away by uber hyper-realistic cakes and the pieces that you are able to see on TikTok. It’s just like, people would never think that what they’re about to cut is a cake until the moment they actually cut it and they realize it’s a cake. It’s not just cake, but food in general. There’s something beautiful about it. And you can transform that beautiful thing into a piece of art.
People now know that there are no limits when it comes to cake and there are so many things that you can do with cake designs. It’s not just a traditional standard round tier. Three-dimensional cakes have become extremely popular these days, and that comes together with hyper-realistic cakes.
How can people at home with little to no experience use food as a useful tool for exploring their creativity in new ways?
It’s so easy. If you have, for example, a bunch of different vegetables, it’s about placing them and playing with the color combinations that you have. For example, if you have a bunch of small tomatoes and a larger one, you can just chop the larger one in half, line up the smaller ones around that half tomato, and immediately you have the shape of the flower. Then, you can add some green around at the base, and that will basically represent the leaves of the flower. You should use your imagination. I guess that’s the artistic interpretation that we can have as an artist or as a person individually. I can see things in a completely different way than you see it, but if you start playing around, you probably can create something cool with it.
All episodes of Foodtastic are available on Wednesday, Dec. 15 on Disney+.