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A Feast for the Eyes: Dalí Museum's 'Flavors of Spain' Exhibition

The Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg contains more than 2,400 works by the artist. And the museum’s restaurant, Café Gala, pays homage to Dalí’s native Spain with menu items like serrano ham salad, Spanish omelet and sangria.

Café Gala's chef, Chuck Bandel, recently cooked his way through Spain, refining his techniques at Michelin-starred restaurants. In additional to his culinary skills, Bandel is also an accomplished self-taught photographer, and the Dalí Museum has turned his collection of photos into a mouthwatering exhibition called Flavors of Spain. The photos offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the kitchens of world-class restaurants.

During his time in Spain, Bandel ate differently than he does at home in Florida.

"Lots of small plates," Bandel tells The Zest podcast. In addition to sausages and artfully crafted charcuterie boards, Bandel enjoyed fresh seafood daily. "The seafood was the best in the world," he says.

Then there's Spain's tradition of cold soups.

"I fell in love with gazpacho," Bandel adds. In fact, Café Gala's gazpacho recipe comes from Barcelona's Restaurante Lasarte, a three-Michelin-star eatery.

Of course, at the Dalí Museum, epicurean themes extend beyond the café and into the galleries. Café Gala's general manager, Jennifer Fletcher, says food and art pair well together, because both inspire people to experience something new.

"I think it's about an expression of emotion," Fletcher says.

Food plays a prominent role in many of Dalí's paintings, including Eggs on a Plate without the Plate and his famous "melting clock" painting, The Persistence of Memory. The piece was inspired by Dalí's dream of a Camembert cheese wheel melting in the sun.

"The food that Dalí evokes in his paintings vary from eggs to cauliflower to different expressions of his home life and his childhood," Fletcher says. "He really, really [tried] to blend food in a surrealist way, and we try to exemplify his desire for pleasure of taste in the cafe," Fletcher says.

Visitors can experience the pleasure of taste at the museum in dishes like refreshing melon salmorejo, a cold soup that is Southern Spain's version of gazpacho.  There's also versatile arugula almond pesto, which appears in several dishes on Café Gala's menu. Bandel shared his recipe for the versatile sauce, which you can find at at thezestpodcast.com/recipes.

You can see Chef Chuck’s food photography on display at the museum through Dec. 1. The exhibition Flavors of Spain is free and open to the public, even without a museum ticket. Find details at thedali.org.

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