Seems like no one is taking Jell-O seriously anymore these days (wait, did they ever?). Bill Cosby did. Housewives in the 50s did. Now, two English blokes, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, who are really more architectural designers than dessert lovers, are single-handedly changing the way we think of Jell-O. In the U.K., they call it “jelly,” so the name of the business started by these gourmet foodies, as fitting as it sounds, is The Jellymongers. And, they’re doing just that, mongering around the UK throwing parties with their creations. The public can’t seem to get enough. From Buckingham Palace to continental United States, there isn’t a shape that doesn’t look better when chilled with Jell-O. Turnstyle News sat down with Sam Bompas of Bompas and Parr to find out just how many shapes they intend to fit on their plate.
Turnstyle News: How did you become a jellymonger?
Sam Bompas: It was almost accidental. Harry and I are very old friends, known each other for years and years. We met when we were age 13. And we really wanted to do something fun. We first thought farmer’s market, and then we thought we should buy a farmer’s market selling jelly. We thought jelly was what people really needed. It had fallen from grace, from its exalted place about 100 years ago. It was an initial disaster.
Turnstyle News: Things didn’t stay disastrous for long, did they?
Sam Bompas: It’s been an enormous, grand jelly adventure. Now, we’ve gone literally around the world on jelly. We’ve lectured on jelly in Asia, we’ve even had cultural discussions in Australia. We’ve made jelly in Italy.
Turnstyle News: What’s your design process?
Sam Bompas: When we first started, Harry realized a few things. Jellies have to be molded. But we couldn’t afford molds. So, I thought, we can make our own. We could design and create our own molds. Once you’ve got a mold, you can make any flavor jelly… almost any cocktail.
Turnstyle News: What’s your favorite jelly?
Sam Bompas: At the moment, it is one made of champagne, violet and a little bit of gin and then just stuffed full with loads and loads of fruit. But as important as the jelly is, the other important thing is the mold. The one we made last night was of Brighton’s Pavilion Onion Dome. Some get the wrong impression. They think it looks like breasts.
Turnstyle News: What are the biggest challenges of being a jellymonger?
Sam Bompas: One of the challenges of the business is getting your jelly strength right. If it’s too watery of a jelly, then you’ll end up with a sad puddle on the floor. If you put too much gelatin in, then you’ll end up with a jelly that’s like a rubber bouncy ball. So, we spend a lot of time getting the balance just right. We’re now experts. But there’s a golden rule, the ultimate secret, which is one leaf of gold or platinum gelatin for every 100 mil, or 100 grams of jelly.
Turnstyle News: What installations have you done recently?
Sam Bompas: We’ve built an entire chocolate waterfall with five tons of molten chocolate which people can then bottle up and take away with them. We’ve been catering for a theatrical production called “Dining With Alice,” which involved 300 diners and many waiters and each diner sitting at their own individual table. It culminates in a very fine jelly that we’re making. The last few days we’ve been also doing these extraordinary tasting menus. The meals involved explosions and tanks of liquid oxygen being poured out over the table. Then, we’ve had a live animal unleashed in the carriage, captured and cooked in front of the guests.
Turnstyle News: What’s your favorite project in recent months?
Sam Bompas: We did a chewing gum factory. Very interesting process where people would come and make their own chewing gum by hand. It was extraordinary. It’s very hard to get a hold of gum base. Most gum base manufactures get it themselves and it’s a quarter of a ton. It took me literally three years to track down a gum base. But then when we had it, it’s amazing, because you can lay almost any flavor to it. We had almost 40,000 flavors of chewing gum. You could get incredible things. I had one person making a white truffle and smoke chewing gum. Pretty classy actually. But some of them were disasters and disgusting. We worked with nanotechnologists for micro-capsulated flavors, which allows us to create flavor-changing gum. We did it by accident. Obviously, Willy Wonka is an incredible thinker. Few confectioners have the imagination.
Turnstyle News: What do your friends and family think about the jellies?
Sam Bompas: I come from a family of lawyers and barristers. For a long time, I think my parents thought making jelly was largely ridiculous. But now they have fully come to terms with it based on the fact that I think when they go to dinner, it’s a great thing to tell. We have an enormous amount of fun with this. Every day, it’s amazing. You get to do absolutely what we love all day long which is wonderful.
Turnstyle News: What’s the next frontier for jellymongers? What are you planning that you haven’t done yet?
Sam Bompas: We’re actually designing as we’re speaking to you, to flood Selfridges, which is a leading department store in all of London, and create a floating bar and café. We’re working with some top designers and mixologists in the U.K. at the moment. You will come, you’ll boat and you will eat and drink at the same time.