When I started a family, I realised that cooking at home was better than eating out as I could control the ingredients and adjust the flavours according to their specific tastes and nutrition needs. I also wanted to encourage my daughters to eat healthy and independently so I started making Food Art.
I love to work with fresh ingredients such as rice, vegetables, fruits and poultry as they provide the best colours. There’s no need for food colouring at all! Most of my artworks are nourishing and satisfying as I believe in including the three basic nutrients of carbohydrate, protein and fibre for a balanced meal.
I follow a three-step process.
Firstly, I will sketch my ideas before I make them into food. This is to stay organised and prevent food wastage.
Secondly, I dabble with different types of ingredients. Personally, I feel that food art has to taste as good as it looks and be practical at the same time!
Final stage, the fun part – cooking and creating! It takes about 1 to 1.5 hours of cooking from scratch to finish (depending on the recipe and complication of the food art). I usually shape the food while cooking and make sure everything is done at the same time.
Keep things simple and use what you have in the kitchen!
You don’t need special tools or ingredients – just your imagination! I used to invest in a lot of bento making art sets and tools but after a while I realised that it isn’t needed at all as using moulds generally result in a lot of food wastage, which I don’t believe in.
I believe in pushing the boundaries of creativity with eco-friendly, practical tools like a pair of scissors, knives and toothpicks – all the things I need to create all my artworks.
You don’t need to do this every day but on special occasions or when you want to introduce new types of food to your children as they are more resistant to unfamiliar ingredients, but when introduced in a fun and cute way, they will be more open to it.
Gather your family around the table and try it out this festive season!
This is a perfect example of my motto: food art does not need to be complicated! Pasta and red sauce are things we do every day yet hardly think of the possibilities in it! I am happy to say that it came to me like a flash and received tremendous feedback for this piece of work.
3. THE JUNGLE BOOK
I am big fan of eggs – I think they are so much fun – so many ways to play with it. With just a few strips of seaweed you can make it into a tiger!
4. ANGRY BIRDS
Once in a blue moon I make a kids’ meal for my daughters – burger, fries and such – this is one of them. Everyone can tell it is the Angry Bird character with that arched eyebrow!
I made this for snack time – not a full meal but oh-so-yummy – the girls love it!
Batman has such distinctive symbols – his mask head, black flowy cape and so on… So all I did was to think how to make it a balanced meal – here you get protein and carbs! You can personalise it the way you like with whatever is available in your fridge!
7. HELLO KITTY
This is one of the most recognisable cartoon characters in the world and I think you don’t need a mould to do it – just use your hand to shape the rice, add in the seaweed at the right place and you’re done!
8. WONDER WOMAN
I made this as a reminder for myself and all the women out there – to remember that we can conquer all fears, and are capable of so much more! (It’s tomato soup in the little bowl!).
9. SHAUN THE SHEEP
Another free hand option – rice is an important feature in my food art because I do really need to feed my girls – and they eat whatever that’s on the plate. Broccoli has a strong resemblance to trees – so I often leave it as it is. I like my kids to know what they are eating.
10. HARRY POTTER
I adore JK. Rowling and the Harry Potter series. They are so incredible and rich in details. This is a tribute to this talented woman out there, and of course to all the Harry Potter fans. I often sketch before I do the actual food art and this time I decided to add a little depth to the food art.
11. SNOW WHITE
It all started with an apple…. And I think red is the colour of Snow White (albeit the name). Again, plenty of fibre here. I added in my daughter’s art in the background – I asked them to do ‘snow’ and that’s what they gave me!
ABOUT Lee Samantha
Lee Samantha is a Malaysian mother and Food Artist who creates whimsical, colourful and healthy meals for her two young daughters. Her approach is fuss free and imaginative, using simple tools to create her food artworks. Her delightfully iconic plates have also caught the attention of international brands and top advertising, PR agencies around the world. Samantha was also a speaker at TedxKL Women in 2013 and a finalist in the food category of the 8th Shorty Awards 2016, the world’s largest digital awards.
Her Instagram handle is @leesmantha