A Feast for the Senses

Fallen Fruit, Kentucky / A Dark and Bloody Ground, 2016. Courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels.

Local chefs talk artistic inspiration

Each restaurant has its own distinct flair when it comes to food, but many of them also stand out because of what hangs on their walls. At three Louisville establishments, the art serves to complement the dishes and drinks served, but it also holds significance for those who run the kitchen. We recently spoke with three local chefs to learn about how art influences their own work and why it is essential to the dining experience.

Executive Chef Jonathan Searle, Proof on Main

Jonathan Searle. Photos courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels.

How does visual art inspire you when you’re cooking?

“Art can set the tone for a dish or menu. It can trigger emotion. Emotion leads to inspiration and inspiration drives creativity.”

Since cooking is an art form, what do you enjoy most about this type of expression?

“Discovery. A dish can start in one place and sometimes go in a direction you never expected. The journey from the cutting board to the plate can be an incredible experience.”

Why is it important to have visual art in your restaurant?

Fallen Fruit, All You Need Is Love, 2016. Courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels.

“The dining experience can and should be multi-sensory. From the moment a guest walks in the door, there is an opportunity to engage with contemporary art that explores the issues of today. It can spark conversation during dinner and carry on long after dinner has ended.”

Fallen Fruit, It Happens To Everyone Some Day / The Last “Gay” Bar In America, 2016. Courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels.


Photos by Kathryn Harrington.

Chef de Cuisine Dustin Willett, the English Grill

How does visual art inspire you when you’re cooking?

“I try to find inspiration in all aspects of life. To me, food is art just like a painting or sculpture, and the chef is the artist. Art is an expression of the personality of the chef or artist, and I am inspired by the thought and creativity that goes into a piece of art.”

Since cooking is an art form, what do you enjoy most about this type of expression?

“The thing I enjoy most about cooking is seeing people enjoy the final product. A piece of art can last forever, but with food you are left with a memory. It is a good feeling when someone still remembers a meal you cooked years ago.”

Why is it important to have visual art in your restaurant? 

“I feel like art has a lot to do with the ambiance of a restaurant. It can tie together a concept or be a good conversation piece for guests and employees of the restaurant.”


Photos by Kathryn Harrington.

General Manager Mike Kerbel, HopCat Louisville

How does visual art inspire you when you’re cooking?

“At HopCat, we incorporate all forms of art into our restaurant. From music to the local-inspired décor on our walls, we encourage HopCat’s vibrant personality to shine through our guest’s entire experience, which includes the flavors in our dishes.”

Since cooking is an art form, what do you enjoy most about this type of expression?

“From our popular Cosmik Fries to stuffed burgers, our chefs enjoy tying the restaurant’s unique personality into every bite. Every month, we do a beer dinner, which gives our chefs a chance to shine and create a unique menu that matches our vibe.”

Why is it important to have visual art in your restaurant?

“Music is a huge part of the HopCat culture. Paintings for each restaurant are unique to that location and no HopCat has the same artwork. The visual art within HopCat ties the restaurant to the Louisville community, especially the Bardstown Road area. The artwork was inspired by the distinct personality of the neighborhood, and it was important for us to connect with the community from the moment they approached our restaurant.” V