Essen: Olimpia Zagnoli Interview


Essen: Olimpia Zagnoli Interview

Our regular readers know the downlow about our patrnership with Essen, a new authority on food and its extraordinarily rich universe. Today marks the inauguration of a new fixture of our Cibvs section: Essen’s gorgeously curated weekly food column! Join us every Saturday from here on out as we travel with Essen into the depths of the organic movement, into the minds of food world maker-shakers and to the vanguard of food design, food art and food fashion. -The Editor

Olimpia Zagnoli loves New York and New York loves Olimpia’s 60’s‐inspired illustrations. This mutual love turned into a new marriage of sorts, crowned by the the birth of a repertoire of illustrated “children.” One of these offspring is the iPhone application, The Scoop, brought beautifully to life by the red-spectacled Italian illustrator for Apple’s online store. The Scoop is a guide to New York run by T Magazine‘s journalists and experts from Food NYTimes. There are no exhaustive lists of clubs nor boring reviews, just a well-curated, highly personal selection along with stories about the clubs and shops of the city.

The Scoop is also an excellent excuse for us to have had a chat with Olimpia, to talk about her love for ice cream and Coca-Cola, and to receive a special gift: an illustrated recipe.

Hi Olimpia! Let’s talk about the NYT application you illustrated.
Well, sure. It’s an iPhone application that allows you to discover interesting places in the city, such as museums, clubs, shopping places etc. with a special focus on telling the residents about their city.

What was your brief?
One of the art directors from the Times asked me to create a cover and a set of icons for the application. The cover had to be an interpretation of Manhattan’s skyline, while the icons were inspired by the theme of the section. Sometimes a new section would come up (for example, a Fashion Week section) and the brief was simply to update it. I had never worked on an app before, so it was fun and interesting.

What did you eat when you lived in New York? What was your favourite type of street food?
The nice thing about New York is that it has everything. I am sort of a glutton, and a very curious person, so for me living in New York felt like being inside a carnival of flavours. I love every type of ethnic food (Mexican and Indian are a couple of my favourites), but I also like healthy fare such as yummy (and pricey!) avocado sandwiches, seaweed and various other concoctions.

Were you in NYC when the app was released? Have you tested it? Do you think it’s full of useful information, or is something missing?
Yes, I’ve been in New York a couple of times since the app was released. I tested it several times and I must say it works. The places it suggests are all very good and varied. There are some top restaurants suggested by Sam Sifton, but also neighbourhood cafes or bars with fancy cocktails.

When I met you, you had just created a fan‐compilation of the best positions for train sleeping. How did your life change since that moment? If you had to make a new list, how would you do it?
My life is not so different after all, so I still take buses and trains to chase my boyfriends and I fall asleep as soon as I touch a more or less stable support. I will soon have a home of my own, so maybe a few of these things will change. From a business point of view I feel quite happy.
You know, a few days ago an art director contacted me and asked me to make another list in the style of “15 ways to sleep on a train.” I can’t tell you what is it exactly, though, because it is as yet unpublished. I like the idea of serial works, so the list is a good solution. The problem with many contemporary illustrators seems to be that they vaunt the subject in order to define their own style: there is “he who draws this” and “he who draws that.”

You are mostly an editorial illustrator, so you have to follow the parameters of texts. Despite this, you are very present in your work – you show yourself – you fill out charts and add your personal taste. Do you believe you’ve found some balance?
I don’t know, I hope I have! I like the interaction with publishers and the texts of others, because it always becomes a mini competition. It is about going around the subject and being able to bring out my own interpretation, even if the topic is unknown to me or not particularly fascinating. It is a very challenging and intriguing process. A blank sheet actually looks more frightening to me because there are no directives and no deadlines.

Will you tell me about your most horrible gastronomic perversion?
My favourite sandwich has bread & ham & lot of mayonnaise & chips. It’s not that horrible though! I like soaking breadsticks in Coca-Cola, drinking warm Coca-Cola and mixing ice cream with Coca-Cola. My great grandmother also made a drink with barley coffee, lambrusco, a lot of sugar and pieces of stale bread. It was delicious! My father taught me the trick of adding banana to coffee. I can go on if you like…

What food packaging would you like to redo?
I would love to make some packages for Kellogg’s cereals. And if it were possible I would love for the original Kinder child to come back.

Is there any food you are particularly fond of?
Is a cappelletto tattoo enough?

Ok, we’ve finished, but now a ritual demand: give us a recipe (and just because you’re you, we’ll accept a drawing.)

Thanks, Olimpia!

Interview by Fabrizio Festa – Recipe Olimpia Zagnoli for Essen – Other Images from The Scoop and “The Good Guide to Living Better,” all by Olimpia Zagnoli – Special thanks to Charlotte Garlaschelli and Cristina Zaga at Essen