It seems that no one ever told Harley Langberg not to play with his food, because that’s exactly what he’s doing.
This Bridgehampton resident is turning his fruits and vegetables into awe-inspiring artwork. His pieces include everything from a mango rendition of a Picasso to a dragon fruit dragon. Langberg started making food art about a year ago when he was living in the West Village. He had visited the Chelsea market and was inspired by food art on display there.
Langberg says, “The artist’s work was very nice but very basic. There were a lot of smiley faces and outlines. I wanted to take it to the next level and make it more challenging by creating intricate artwork like human faces.”
Since that day, Langberg has created 50 different pieces of food art. This is no small accomplishment. After all, he is not a professional artist. “I’ve never done any art before, other than when I was a kid,” he says. “I’ve always been creative and liked photography but I’ve never done anything like this before.”
What Langberg has done before, however, is spend some quality time with fruits and vegetables. “I have a full time job in produce,” he says. “And I have a history in the culinary industry.” Langberg has worked for the Hamptons’ own DISH catering company, taught cooking classes at Northwestern University, served as a baker in Kim’s Kitchen, and was a pastry chef at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse in Philadelphia.
When Langberg isn’t cooking, he’s shopping at local farm stands and farmers markets for fresh produce to use in his art. His Hamptons destinations of choice are Country Gardens and the Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor farmers markets.
Purchasing healthy and locally grown foods is essential for his art’s purpose. “I want to put out a good message that fruits and vegetables are good and fun to eat,” Langberg says. “There are so many fruits and vegetables that people don’t know about. I hope my artwork might get people to try new foods.”
Among the many fruits and vegetables, Langberg has a clear favorite: eggplant. The reason, he says, is because “It’s very versatile. There aren’t a lot of black fruits and veggies and black is so present in all of my images.”
Surprisingly, Oreo cookies have made their way into Langberg’s repertoire. “Oreos aren’t healthy but they push me a lot,” he explains. “It forces me to work in a tiny, confined space. I have to work only with the existing cream.”
Besides tedious Oreo cream sculpting, another challenge of food art is its time-sensitive nature. Langberg is looking into ways to preserve his artwork but, for now, his art is on display primarily through photographs. He posts a picture of every new art piece on his Instragram account, @harleysfood_art.
“I create most of my artwork in my Bridgehampton house. I like shooting there,” he says. “The Hamptons offer me a good kitchen and natural lighting, which is such a big role in photographing my artwork.”
Once the photographs are taken, Langberg tries to incorporate his artwork into a dish to consume. For example, he used his butterfly piece to make a stir-fry. Unfortunately, the food combinations in his artwork don’t always make for a good meal.
“If the combinations are too weird, I have to toss the food,” Langberg admits. “I don’t want to eat chewed bubble gum, Swiss cheese and eggplant.”
What once was just a hobby has changed Langberg’s life. He’s now being commissioned to create food art plates for dinner parties and has been considering taking a new teaching position at a culinary school. What has changed most, however, is his perception of the world around him.
“I look at everything and think about how I can make it into food art,” he says. “It’s scary but it’s the way I approach the world now.”