I spoke to Ceddia over Skype for an answer to the question: Why does this exist? This conversation has been edited.
Spencer Kornhaber: Tell me about your background generally.
Nathan Ceddia: I’ve always been really interested in cooking. After school I studied hospitality and hotel management but hated it because I wanted to do something more creative. So I did things like try out for MasterChef, and then I studied video arts for three years.
[The project] that started off my food videos was a thing called “sneeze art.” Wasabi makes me sneeze; I was eating a sushi roll, and it went all over the wall. So I created a film about an artist [whose] painting work was done by sneezing onto a canvas. People actually believed that character was real.
After that, I moved to London and I worked for Bompas & Parr, which is a food design company. One of the projects we did was called “Cake Holes.” We invited 20 people into our studio and asked them to get naked and sit on cakes. It started to go viral, and we got a lot of emails from people who do sploshing. Do you know what sploshing is?
Kornhaber: I don’t think so.
Ceddia: Sploshing is where people cover themselves in food for fun. It’s maybe a sexual thing, but also a playful thing. There’s a whole community.
From there, I moved to Berlin and started creating videos for myself. The idea [for “Cooking With Your Mouth”] came to me when I was in my friend’s kitchen, having a meal. My friend was trying to find some utensils and I said, “Well if you don’t have utensils, why don’t you use your mouth? What’s the sharpest tool in the kitchen right now? It’s our teeth.”
On that night, I came up with maybe 10 recipes that I could do. But I sat on it for about two years, with it always in the back of my head. A few months ago we decided to film an episode with my friend Iska [Lupton]. She came over to Berlin for 24 hours—she’d never been there before—and we shot two recipes, one still to come. But we’ll keep that quiet for now.
Kornhaber: Oh god.
Ceddia: I can say that this one goes the next step. It goes even further.
Kornhaber: Like raw meat?
Ceddia: It’s very meaty. Yeah. There’s a lot of ripping, pulling, and tearing.
So we shot the episode. We had two cameras on her. Everything was real, we didn’t want to fake anything. She firstly chopped up the onion in her mouth, which was really full-on for her, and she cried tears. For me as the director, watching her, it was a bit challenging because you can’t help—all the pain was going on in her mouth. It got tougher once we got to the garlic, which started to burn. She was a pro. At the end of it, the meal that we turned out looked like it could have come from a restaurant. It was tasty; we all had a taste.
For us, it was a test to see, “If you didn’t have anything in the kitchen, what could you do to create a meal?” Obviously people think it’s gross, but you’re putting food in your mouth at the end of the day. If you’re cooking for a partner, someone you kiss, why not cook in a totally different way?