Brooklyn rapper Theophilus London and French chef Inaki Aizpitarte's taste for the aesthetic is a complete lesson in elevating the everyday.
A Parisian hipster princess, her small breasts tucked under what seems a billowy pillow-case, ooohs over what's in front of her: a shard of squid in its own ink and bejeweled in pink onion.
Amid the hubbub of the bistro, she has eyes only for her plate, and for the chef behind the pass, with his Basque heritage and black scruff.
The man is Inaki Aizpitarte and the restaurant is Le Chateaubriand, which serves democratic cuisine but only to those who wait in line. Aizpitarte is ringmaster and circus all in one; a self-taught rockstar fueled by the funk of biodynamic wine and the simple pleasure of being in his own kitchen.
An ocean away, a lithe black Brooklynite shimmies to a bassy beat and inhales deeply, his disconnected poetry fluttering over new wave echoes. In a leather vest and a snapback emblazoned LVRS, there is reason to doubt his lyrics: "The clothes don't make the man / It's the man that makes the clothes."
This is Theophilus London -- real name -- a member of hip-hop's popular avante-garde, if such a thing exists. He is not necessarily regarded highly as a formal musician, but that may not matter in an era of remix and hyperbole, wherein the pursuit of image is the ultimate. His shoes are just as important as his habit of sampling obscure vinyl.
The duo's pairing in this article is as unlikely as some of the dishes that emerge from Aizpitarte's kitchen, but in 2012 they occupy a special place. Though they almost certainly do not know each other, they both serve as precious reminders of what it means to "give style to one's existence" -- to elevate the everyday.
It may sound a bit odd, but there is a common lesson to take from this French chef and New York performer, and it's not just how to win the hearts of doe-eyed admirers. Indeed, there's much more here: creativity and artistry as a response to a loss of meaning, a loss of love and fashion. They push back with a desire to make themselves.
In Aizpitarte's kitchen, for example, where I had the joy of working for a month last year, he urges forcefully, "it has to be love." He adjusts the angles of torn raw mushrooms beside circles of turnip and a square of seared flounder, such that the final dish speaks in a way its individual ingredients cannot. He smiles, knowing he has shown you something more about life than about plating technique.
It is in this whole-hearted, almost Nietzschean embrace of the aesthetic world that those like Aizpitarte and London present observers with a way to break free from the spell of the ordinary. "Giving style" is a painting with a brush, an authoring of self-created myth, and a joyous articulation of the internal. First and foremost, it's a mindset, and it begins with the assumption that life really is worth living to the fullest.
Or as London notes:
It's time to live it up, oh
You get sent the fine wine deliverables and chocolate candles
Its time to live it up, oh
Matching shiny shoes dressed like Thriller and watch Godzilla
Its a lovely Sunday, sit here and crack a big ole lobster, shrimp, and pasta
I seen your face when I call, grab you phone change your status
Love in modern time