Richard J. S. Gutman is the Director and Curator of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence. He is also the country’s leading authority on diners, and has authored four books on the subject.
He will speak at the 2014 Taste Trekkers Food & Travel Expo on October 4th at the Providence Biltmore. We asked him a few questions…
1. The Culinary Arts Museum has been closed for over a year while you’ve reorganized your collection. What is involved in that process?
The museum has been in existence for 25 years, and it was started with an immense donation of artifacts that filled 16 tractor-trailers, comprising the majority of the life-long collection of Chef Louis Szathmary, proprietor of The Bakery restaurant in Chicago.
The collection was continually expanded over the years without the small staff being able to inventory the holdings. Thus, Johnson & Wales University decided that the museum should close for 15 months to conduct an inventory of the thousands of boxes in storage. Four temporary inventory specialists were brought on board to work with the museum staff and student workers to produce skeleton records and properly rehouse the collection and begin to put the records online.
2. The museum is now re-opening. Tell us about some of the new exhibits we can go see.
A new exhibit titled “Sweet Success” is on display. It includes a partial installation of the former Agora Ice Cream Parlor, an 1896 New York landmark; artifacts and images from the Salois Sanitary Dairy, a 20th century family business that operated in Pawtucket; and the story of Sweenor’s Chocolates, a Rhode Island company that has been run by the Sweenor family for four generations. Other ice cream, soda fountain, and candy-related artifacts discovered during our inventory project are included in this exhibition.
Our chefs gallery has also been reinstalled with new graphics and displays, featuring jackets from some of the Distinguished Visiting Chefs that have been honored at the College of Culinary Arts and come to work with the students over the years. These include Martin Yan, Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller, Lorena Garcia and more.
3. Of all the items you discovered during the reorganization, which is your favorite?
I’m pretty fond of the 44 different waffle irons. It would be hard to pick my favorite, but I lean towards the Art Deco styling of the 1930s. These will be used by students during the Winter trimester in the Design and Engineering School for an industrial design project that investigates the evolution of a kitchen tool . . . from cast iron to today’s latest Cuisinart model.
4. What will you be speaking about at the 2014 Food & Travel Expo?
I will be talking about what we do at the Culinary Arts Museum, how we learn from the past to invent the future.
5. The museum is has extended its hours on Saturday, October 4th, so that Expo attendee can check it out. What can people expect there?
The museum will have extended hours on Saturday to accommodate Taste Trekkers who will presumably be occupied until 4 pm. We will stay open until 7 pm. Regular admission fees will apply. We have 25,000 square feet of gallery space, but one show in particular should be of special interest to people who travel for food. Our exhibition, “Food on the Move,” was inspired by Chef Louis Szathmary’s collection of over 600 travel menus, from steam ships, railroads, airlines and roadside restaurants. This 150-year look into the culinary world of the traveler provides a fascinating comparison with today’s offerings for the global traveler.
For more information on the Taste Trekkers Food & Travel Expo on October 3-5, 2014, please visit http://tastetrekkers.com/expo.
You can also view scenes from the 2013 Taste Trekkers Food & Travel Expo below.