BLT Market and the Art of Seasonality

New York, NY – September 2007 – To a chef’s palate, nature’s bounty is as bold and colorful in flavor as nature’s beauty is to an artist working with a palette of paint. That might explain the immediate affinity Chef Laurent Tourondel felt for artist Marilyn Sommer, who he commissioned to create the majestic paintings that will line the walls of Tourondel’s newest dining destination, BLT Market. The paintings are a two-dimensional representation in oil-on-canvas of the fresh, seasonal farmers’ market ingredients that adorn the menu.

“When I first saw Marilyn’s work at the Mondavi Winery in Napa, I was struck by the vibrant colors and textures that made the fruits and vegetables depicted seem to jump off the canvas. The paintings displayed at BLT Market of golden persimmons, ruby tomatoes and deep-hued juicy figs are a natural extension of my vision for the restaurant,” says Tourondel. He was so taken with the artwork that he later purchased two paintings for his home.

Sommer uses her ability to play contrasting colors against each other in order to create the movement within each painting. Her work is heavily influenced by the power and emotion of colors, recalling the styles of artists Chaim Soutine and Vincent Van Gough, as well as Post Impressionist and Expressionist periods.

Sommer was featured as a Robert Mondavi guest artist in 2001 at Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville, CA. She also exhibits at The Petaluma Arts Council, Sebastopol Center for the Arts, and the Arts Council of Sonoma County. Her work is currently on display at the following California locations: Holiday Inn Express, The Rose & Thorn and Patty James Cooking School in Sebastopol, All Seasons Bistro in Calistoga, Copperfield’s of Santa Rosa. Sommer’s artwork has also been featured on the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau Map, as well as on the label of Michael Mondavi’s Folio Wine Company’s new release, I’m Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon. She is currently a featured artist at the San Francisco Design Center as well.

“Shared times at the table are many of our sweetest remembrances. My artwork attempts to convey this sentiment at BLT Market. I am thrilled to be part of this artistic collaboration, and hope my painted images both enhance and whet the appetite. Painting what is most beautiful comes from my reaction to the power and emotion of the subject matter, color and composition. Spreading the paint is as joyous now as when I was a child. Bon appétit!”

Just as Tourondel’s menu takes its cue from the bounty of the season, so do Sommer’s vivid paintings.

Cooking Up Art:Color As The Main Ingredient

Artist Marilyn Sommer s ingredient-focused tableaux adorning the walls of BLT Market not only help bring the menu to life, but her colorful artwork also sets the tone for the restaurant s seasonally inspired dishes.

It s easy to see where Marilyn Sommer pulls her inspiration from: the seductive hues of vibrant summer vegetables, the healthy coloring of a steaming bowl of soup, or the rich, warm tones of a seasonal daube. All of these colors embellish our appetite for food, for creativity, for the arts in general.

Sommer s oil paintings are bursting with color; much like a just overripe tomato splits its seams to reveal its red, raw ûesh, unabashed. She pulls together compositions largely through her ability of playing one color against another, as a chef does with his ingredients, where infusion of ûavor or color and juxtaposition of texture come into play.

Influenced largely by the paintings of the Impressionist, Post- Impressionist, and Expressionist periods, Marilyn Sommer notes the works of Soutine, Van Gogh, Matisse, and Bonnard in particular. Her versatile portfolio spans still lifes, landscapes, ûgurative works, and interiors.

Commissioned by Chef Laurent Tourondel, who studied her works before formulating ideas for BLT Market, Sommer provided artwork based on the exact specifications of the restaurant s setting.

There is a beauty and truth in the presence of food, which I find very appealing to paint in my honest reaction to what I am feeling and seeing. Also, shared times at the table are among many of our sweetest remembrances.
And sweet they are, as she fondly reminisces about her Aunt Minnie s unforgettable sour cream coffee cake:  I can still smell and picture the foods, and have painted some of them from my memories as a child around the holidays with my extended family. More recent food associations involve family times as well as wonderful get-togethers and potlucks with friends.  My son, husband, and I just tried to replicate my Grandma Chloé s goulash. What fun!

I feel the seasons intensely, she continues.  It is a combination of my senses as well as something indeterminate. Having had the opportunity in my life to experience four distinct seasons according to the places in which I have lived, I enjoy aspects of them all and take pleasure in painting season-specific ingredients: strawberries in the spring, watermelon in the summer, all kinds of gourds, pumpkins, and squash in autumn, and persimmons in the winter.

While Sommer has a flower and vegetable garden and fruit trees that, at times, provide produce and landscape as models, she is ultimately inspired by all of nature in general and specific seasonal produce. In fact, her work is as varied and seasonal as the menu at BLT Market.

While she enjoys eating out  My favorite item on the BLT Market menu is the seven-pepper-crusted grass-fed New York strip steak  Sommer is particularly fond of cooking with family and friends.  Cooking is a wonderful way to share in the learning process, and to relish the results with the people I love. My favorite meal is dinner, and a perfect menu would include lobster bisque soup, prime rib with fresh vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes, salad greens with fresh garden tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette, and chocolate fudge cake for dessert, with milk!

-BLT Living Magazine, Summer 2008

Media Contact: Jennifer Baum / Jennifer Russo Bullfrog & Baum, 212-255-6717