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ELA merges food and art at first Fork + Brush dinner

Kevin Earl Taylor proves a worthy muse

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Some would say that cooking is a craft, not an art. The folks at Eye Level Art would disagree. And on Wednesday night, the contemporary art gallery held the first installment of its Fork + Brush Series to merge visual arts and culinary arts into the same world. Iverson Brownell of Iverson Catering was the chef de cuisine for the evening — and will continue to be for the entire series. Brownell created the three course, three appetizer meal based off of Kevin E. Taylor’s Half Life Whole Hearted exhibit, which opened to the public on Thursday. The 25 special people who attended the dinner were able to see half of Taylor’s Half Life exhibit, a collection of pieces that explore the struggle between human life and the animal world.

A cocktail hour began at 7:30 p.m. Servers sampled out hors d’oeuvres, like taro chips with Muscovy duck confit, served on gold framed mirrors. Dinner followed. When it was time to really eat, guests assembled around a rustic, medieval style dining room table, sitting on fold-out chairs made from varnished tree limbs. The furniture was art in itself. Taylor started the meal with a small speech, saying he doesn’t like when chefs try to get experimental with food that already tastes good. So that was what he told Brownell to do, to make food that tastes good.

We dined on Caprese towers, stacked beside clay pots hiding a salad of mixed greens, and seared Alaskan salmon served over purple and white mashed potatoes. For dessert, Brownell made “Grandma’s chocolate cake,” inspired by Taylor’s grandmother’s original recipe. The lights were turned off after the meal. Diners finished wine, socializing by candlelight, to the sound of Taylor’s band La Calle, playing in the dark. It felt casual, yet unpretentious, dignified and refined. A great way to unveil all of Taylor’s work in Charleston — his art, his music, his cake — and kick off Eye Level Art’s ambitious new series.

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