With a keen predilection for all things new and indulgent, we’re always on the lookout for exciting additions to New Zealand’s food scene so it was no surprise that the weird and wobbly creations of Jess Mentis revived our nostalgic love for JELLY!
Jess Mentis, also known as thejellyologist, has become renowned for creating bespoke jellies with a bit of panache. With a background in architecture, love for theatre and culinary brilliance, Jess saw an opportunity to bring her skills into the emerging field of food design.
We got in touch with the talented Jess to find out where her love for ‘the wobble’ came from, and her new jelly delivery service. Yes, that’s freshly made jelly delivered to your door…
Where did the idea for thejellyologist come from?
The jellyologist began as an Instagram project. It was a way to test out some of the ideas I had in merging multiple disciplines. Every day for 100 days I created a mould using architectural software, 3D printed it and set it with increasingly experimental jelly flavours. The photography and styling became a big part of the overall aesthetic and the playful and experimental nature of the project really captured people's imagination. What began as an Instagram project is now pretty much a full time gig! I get regular requests for jelly deliveries and I’m excited to say I’m launching a jelly delivery service next week. I’ll still mainly focus on larger scale jelly installations but now people can order from a selection of my most popular flavours and shapes!
How has your background in architecture helped you in creating food art?
Although I have my Masters in Architecture I did my undergrad degree in Spatial design. While there are obvious correlations between the two they are taught rather differently. I think having exposure to both of these worlds allowed me to see the value in working across disciplines. Both degrees were great phases of play and experimentation and I loved being able to focus on my own ideas. You don’t tend to get that freedom in ‘the real world’. I guess I didn’t want that to end, so I just carried on – minus the grades and lectures!
How did you go about launching thejellyologist?
The whole idea behind Mentis Studios is to merge my first love, which is theatre and set design, with something that everyone engages with everyday – food. Being able to apply the design process to an activity we do 3 times a day and to re-interpret and re-imagine it is really what I love doing. The biggest challenge was to find an audience but Instagram has been a really important platform to get my ideas out there. It's still early days for Mentis Studios and I imagine there will be more challenges in turning the ideas in my head into a reality… but it’s an exciting challenge.
There is a nice cohesion between the food and the art scene in what you do. Does this help to motivate and inspire you?
One of the things I’m interested in is blurring the lines between art and food. I think the most potential for work that inspires is at the intersection of these multiple ‘scenes’. I try to have a foot in lots of creative worlds, including an academic or theoretical one. Being exposed to various processes, creative people and their ways of working will always motivate me to experiment with the translation of ideas across disciplines.
Is there someone in your field of work that has inspired what you do?
There is a long history of theatrics in food. As early as the 1700’s chefs like Marie-Antonie Careme were experimenting with creating a performance around the act of eating. He’s inspiring just for the sheer audacity in some of the things he attempted. He was quite the rebel back in the day. It’s no secret that my ultimate heroes are Bompas and Parr though. The discovery of their work was the light bulb moment in turning vaguely formed ideas about a different kind of architecture practice into a reality.
Where do you see the future of thejellyologist?
thejellyologist was only one project in a series I was exploring, but as it’s only me at this stage I had to press pause on other projects and devote all my attention to the wobble! Hopefully this year will see Mentis Studios working with other brands and agencies to create flavour based brand experiences. I’m always looking for creative people to collaborate with!
What’s your favourite jelly to indulge in on a hot NZ summers day?
You can’t go wrong with a classic champagne jelly, set with beautiful summer berries. It’s a great celebratory jelly perfect for the start of a new year!
CHAMPAGNE RASPBERRY JELLY
Recipe makes 8 100ml moulds. I custom make my moulds, but a plastic cup works just fine - they just won't be the same rad shapes!
600mls champagne or sparkling wine
200mls sugar syrup
9 sheets Gold Grade Leaf gelatine (you can purchase these at any gourmet food store e.g. Farro, Nosh)
16 whole raspberries
Combine the 600mls of champagne and 200mls of sugar syrup in a measuring jug.
Cut the gelatine and place in a heatproof bowl.
Cover the gelatine with champagne & sugar syrup (approx 100mls). Leave to soften for about 10mins.
Bring a pot of water to the boil.
Place your gelatine and champagne mix on top of the pot in the heatproof bowl. Keep stirring until gelatine is completely melted. The champagne may froth up, thats ok. Once totally melted leave to cool until the froth and bubbles disappear.
Using a sieve, slowly pour your cooled jelly mix back into the remaining mix of sugar syrup & champagne.
Pour the liquid into your moulds leaving a bit of space at the top. Drop two little raspberries in (they'll float up to the top).
Carefully place your jellies in the fridge to set.
To celebrate the launch of RUBY Pre-Fall 16, thejellyologist has worked her magic to create a bespoke jelly installation, inspired by our latest collection. Pop in to RUBY Newmarket this Saturday 16th January and enjoy a wobbly treat while you shop.
Thanks Jess x