Feasting on Stars

A celestial lunch cooking with plasma, the fourth state of matter - London, March 2015

← Back More ↓


A Celestial Lunch curated especially for Nike, with a theme chosen as a direct celebration of what the brand represents: the future.

This culinary experience was influenced by futuristic literature and pop culture combined with the latest real science, techonology and an overarching fascination with the future's potential.

We looked at the future of food by allowing diners to feast on a meal cooked with plasma – the fifth state of matter and the energy that stars are made of. It is possible to cultivate plasma in a restaurant setting with a highly customised microwave. To harness this energy, Bompas & Parr partnered with Dr. Andrew C. Wright, a consultant in Advanced Materials and Processing located in Manchester, to bring plasma to the dining table for the first time ever.

The celestial meal was further supported by other dishes inspired by the future of food and the gustatory implications of the forthcoming space tourism industry. The menu featured sci-fi starters, food cooked with plasma and ultraviolet jellies served with coffee that had travelled to space and back.

Read more about Space Coffee here. 

Gas Plasma – the fourth state of matter – exists naturally as lightning flashes and as stars such as our sun burn. Gas atoms, stripped of a few electrons by the application of strong electric fields, enter a plasma state and become highly excited, displaying vivid colours. The temperatures of gas plasmas can range from less than 100 degrees Celsius to the many millions at the sun’s centre.

Gas plasma will – if technology permits – be the almost unlimited power source of the future, as a product of nuclear fusion. The extreme temperatures and pressures required to achieve nuclear fusion will stretch mankind’s ingenuity to its limit.

Here we presented subdued gas plasma within the humble domestic microwave by way of a vacuum pump and a quartz chamber. When the microwave is activated, the radiation creates a charged atmosphere inside the vacuum quartz chamber, turning what was air into plasma, instantly creating an intense heat of 1,200 Celsius inside the chamber.

In modifying this microwave oven, Dr. Andrew Wright has developed a brand new cooking technique that creates and manipulates the fourth state.

Bompas & Parr sent coffee beans into the stratosphere as part of an investigation into the future of food and drink in space. The studio then collected them back on terra firma to make the world's first 'Space Coffee'.

The studio obtained a Civil Aviation Licence to launch a helium weather balloon, to which was attached 500g of African, Central and South American beans, a GPS tracker and a Go-Pro video camera to document the journey.

The beans soared up to 37km - roughly the same altitude that Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from. At that point the balloon had expanded to 10m in diameter, it was -50C and the atmospheric pressure was just 1% of ground level.

When the balloon popped, the coffee plummeted back down to earth at 200m/s, and was then served to guests at the Celestial Lunch.

See the project here.

Photography by Chris Lee. Jelly Galaxy cover image by Jo Duck.