Nomadic Dining

Food stylist Anastasia Finders tells us how she creates combinations of art and nature to express her unique culinary visions.

My culinary journey began with my desire for freedom and to develop and express my commitment to sustainable values. I wanted to earn a living while remaining very creative. When I started my catering business in 2014, I saw that my chance was in food curating and styling, which were still pioneering practices. I was lucky enough to do things the way I wanted to. So, my transition to culinary art happened very naturally. 

I was very close to my Italian/Greek and Dutch/Surinamese grandmothers throughout my childhood. They introduced me to specific tastes and sensations, not only in food but in aesthetics. In addition, I grew up between France and Switzerland, where food culture, from gastronomy to more bio-based practices, were embedded in daily life. These journeys helped me understand and accept complexity. I am inspired by classical art, landscapes, still lives and scene de genre, but with a pinch of colour and kitsch. I like to go from Murano to Valoris, to sleek mid-century design and architecture combined with a Roman-Greek feast. 

Ingredients I love are tarragon and shiso mixed with berries or citrus fruits. I love edible flowers, their subtle taste, delicate texture and colour. I’m obsessed with the Mediterranean, the landscapes, the products, and the sea, from the Aeolian Islands to Istanbul and beyond. 

My creative process all begins with sensations and the sacred link between mind and body. Then it moves to the surface, materials, textures, and forms. Time is an essential element, measured by the passing of the seasons that defines the produce. Time is also about pressure and that is always a creative driver.  

Nature is the mother of invention. Living with nature and in nature is essential. It heightens your senses and instincts but relaxes your body and your rhythm. There is no landscape without sunlight. There is no scenery without the earth. 

I live between three homes in Paris, Arles, and Amsterdam. Arles, in Camargue, is where I feel most at home, the mix between wild nature and natural reserves through three distinct landscapes: the prairie of La Craux, the mountains of Les Alpilles, and the wetlands and sea of the Camargue. Since birth, I have had a nomadic and gypsy life. Arles is also a city of culture, from Van Gogh to the international photography festival and music festivals. There is a great food scene because of the local produce, multi-cultural and intergenerational mix. Mid-autumn and winter are the best seasons in Arles to research and dream. I don’t know yet where I will settle down. 

The perfect ingredients for a spring table are fresh air, blossoming trees, flowers, wild asparagus – the first picnic; I love using pastel-coloured tableware, and sensual light linen set off by vivid spring flowers. Wisterias are my favourite: their colour, delicate flowers, and intoxicating smell.

“Living with nature and in nature is essential. It heightens your senses and instincts but relaxes your body and your rhythm. There is no landscape without sunlight. ”

This season everything is moving very quickly from bud to full bloom, faster than in most places, almost overnight after the rain. You feel the renewal in the air, the energy of the coming summer. I open the windows, listen to the birds sing, see my garden which needs tending to after winter’s sleep, and look for new aromatic plants and flowers to inspire the summer season. The house always needs to be fresh, which means changing my furniture and artwork around, reordering my library, and adding new colours – paintings, objects, flowers and textiles – to my kitchen and bathroom. Springtime also means lunches in the garden, long walks in the surrounding countryside  and near the ocean, getting my feet wet!  

My gatherings are full of old and new friends bathed in sunlight around a massive but simple table, happy to be together after a hard-working winter, inspiring each other’s conversations, eating new asparagus, a risotto with garden peas and fresh mint, the first strawberries and fresh lemonade!

Spring will be a busy season this year of experimentation and travel; from Greece at @casafistiki, a new place opening in beautiful Antiparos, back to Paris to visit the site of my new secret restaurant, Anna Margarita, which I plan to open in October, and always in Arles to plan summer parties and weddings. More to come!

Follow the evolution of Anastasia’s projects @anastasiafinders