“We imagined a museum that would be for everybody,” said Executive Director Peter Kim during the grand opening of the 5,000-square-foot Bayard Street venue last week. “Whether you’re rich, poor, old or young, everyone eats. We envisioned a museum that would be fun, that would sit squarely at the intersection of important and awesome.”
For its inaugural exhibition, “Flavor: Making it and Faking It,” the museum features comprehensive histories of some of the world’s most popular flavors, including vanilla, as well as a dedicated exhibit of chemical flavor enhancer MSG.
The museum also features a variety of interactive stations, including “smell synths” that emit vapor that smells of natural and artificial flavors, and edible samples of flavors, including tomato, vanilla and even MSG.
The museum is the brainchild of food scientist and writer Dave Arnold, whose traveling exhibition “BOOM! The Puffing Gun and the Rise of Cereal,” a tour of the technology that led to breakfast cereals’ ubiquity, became a huge success when it made the rounds in 2013.
Arnold, along with a host of volunteers and some of the city’s premiere chefs, have been working towards seeing a bricks and mortar museum fully realized for years.
“It’s difficult sometimes to explain to people why you need a museum dedicated to food,” he said. “Watching a TV show about food is not the same as coming to smell and taste it. Reading a recipe book is not the same. There really isn’t any venue that explains in straight-ahead terms what is going on in the food world today.
“I hope and feel that the exhibit speaks for itself and going through it you’ll see why its important to learn about food, and why this is the first great step in an ongoing quest to create even more venues like this where we can present larger and larger pieces of the museum,” he added.
Arnold said he hopes to one day open a much larger iteration of the museum, with plans to have a 30,000-square-foot space open in Manhattan by 2019.
“This is just the beginning,” he said.
However, future plans have not detracted from the excitement over MOFAD’s first space in Williamsburg. In an interview last month, Emma Boast, program director of the museum, said the Brooklyn environs were fitting.
“Some would say Brooklyn is a hotbed of food culture in the U.S. right now,” she said. “There’s a ton of new restaurants and food producers, but there’s also a wealth of history and different food cultures that exist here and have existed here. It’s an exciting place.” At the museum’s opening, State Senator Daniel Squadron said he was amazed that in a city as obsessed with food as New York, a museum like MOFAD hadn’t been constructed long ago.
“In New York, food and drink is something we do for recreation and to socialize and experience our city,” he said. “So it’s insane we don’t have a museum of this sort already.”
“Flavor: Making It and Faking It” will be on display through February. Tickets to the museum are $10.