“To the ruler, the people are heaven; to the people, food is heaven”. (Ancient Chinese proverb). To Ox food and people is a rule’.
Last week on October 18, McDonald’s teamed up with a French chef Harauld Sextus (also known as Ox) to present a creative cuisine using only their usual ingredients to a banquet of around 600 diners. The menu was inspired by family meals in France and focused on the freshness of the ingredients and making the most out of the colors and flavor combinations.
This is the fourth year McDonalds has held this McBanquet (麦麦全席), and Ox has been in charge of the menu since 2017.
Ox’s interesting career trajectory did not start in a food related industry but in advertising. Beginning as a creative, designer, videographer, and editor at numerous creative studios in China, Ox left the industry several years ago to become a baker. He started to bake bread and experiment with flavors in his Shanghai lane house apartment equipped only with a small electric oven. He eventually opened a bakery and cafe called ShBakery, where the creative community liked to hang out. Not too long after that, Ox found a way to combine his love of creativity and food by starting to work on various artistic projects that focused on how individuals approach life through food.
Ox feels that ‘how we approach food is how we approach people – we all experience the good and the bad, the tasty and the disgusting’.
One of these projects is “I am”, a series of photographic portraits of people who choose a specific ingredient that they feel best reflects their “I”. Ox creates individual portraits that are both uncomfortable and magnificent, giving a real window into each distinctive personality. The project is also a book that has the unique ability of being edible, olfactory, touch sensitive and of course readable.
Another project is “who the f**d are you?” where Ox creates “edible portraits” based on an individual psychological study which becomes a depiction of a selected individual’s behaviors, habits, emotions translated in a taste, smell, feel or color in the form of food.
Ox literally “puts a human in front of a buffet to know who he or she is’ – an intimate eating experience for all the participants in an unusual format.
他的另一部作品《who the f**d are you?》，是一组基于个人心理学研究的“可以吃的人物肖像”，借助食物的味道、气味、触感或颜色，来展现被拍摄人物的行为、习惯和情感。
Ox further expanded on this theme with a similarly veined project called “Happy You”, where he creates a cake for each character who wants to be part of the project. After spending some time with a person, he then translates his or her personality into the confectionary and creates a photograph of the cake. You can be “double happy” if it happens to be your birthday cake delivered on your actual birthday date.
While working on several personal projects that explore these ideas, Ox has also done additional food styling and chef projects in the commercial world. The McDonalds project wasn’t just about eating, either – the beautiful dishes were styled and photographed as well, creating gorgeous portraits themselves, which were shared on social media as PR for the brand to show another side to their menus.
With the important Chinese holidays centering around food we can see the importance of using food in an interesting and beautiful way as a marketing technique. Mooncakes have been a common way for big brands to create bespoke eats. With Ox’s styling, perhaps brands can consider creating even more unique food projects and experiences to target audiences throughout the year.