Meet & Eat: Nadia Siddiqui and Michelle Zatta, Jell-O Mold Competition Organizers

"I mean, it can suspend objects, it can hold shape, and take on different consistencies, hues, and flavors. There is a lot to explore."


From left: Nadia Siddiqui and Michelle Zatta.

20090604-jellomold.jpgThe most distinguished engineers working in a gelatinous medium might be the Jelly Mongers, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, but two Brooklyn roommates are bringing the jiggle wiggle to New York City. Basically they thought, what the hell, let's organize a Jell-O Mold Competition. And since only two pretty interesting gals could say that, we decided to learn more about them and this competition. Register by June 12 for the event, which is happening on Saturday, June 20, from 6 to 10 p.m.

Names: Nadia Siddiqui and Michelle Zatta
Location: Brooklyn
Occupations: International Center for Transitional Justice program assistant (Nadia) and Independent designer (Michelle)

What inspired the Jell-O Mold Competition? The idea for a Jell-O mold project had been kicking around the Gowanus Studio Space for a while, and was first proposed by fellow Studio Space member Sara Martin—who also helped with organization and designed the flyer—after she found an old Jell-O recipe book. I thought this would be an interesting platform for a larger design event, focusing less on the retro aspects of Jell-O and more on exploring its design properties in the present tense.

I was also inspired to take on this event by Martí Guixé’s design book 1:1 Martí Guixé. His idea of creating edible products is one in which I am very interested—and is what this competition is asking people to consider. The timing also seemed right to look for inexpensive ways to experiment with design. Given the wobbly state of our economy and the, well, economy of Jell-O, it was a perfect fit.

Is there any relationship to the "hipster" Brooklyn cook-offs that have sweeping the borough (the Chili Takedown, Cupcake Cookoff, Risotto Challenge, and others)? Quite honestly I had no idea these cook-offs were happening. I think our Jell-O Mold Competition is a bit different in that we aren’t framing the competition in an ironic or nostalgic way. We are asking our participants to look at Jell-O as a design material/medium. I mean, it can suspend objects, it can hold shape, and take on different consistencies, hues, and flavors.

Plus, we have a pretty exciting panel of judges who are well known in design, art, and/or food, including conceptual designers Jason Miller and Tobias Wong, Jennifer Appel of Buttercup Bake Shop, and Thu Tran of Food Party.

Do you think most of the competitors will be more designers than food people? A little of both? It’ll be a mixed bag in terms of background, which makes this all the more exciting. Some of our participants at this point include a jewelry designer, a candy company manager, and a corporate lawyer-film post-production duo. We're looking forward to seeing what people come up with.

What are these "really cool prizes" you advertise? The grand prize winner will receive $500 cash and a signed poster by Tara McPherson. Runners-up will receive $100 cash and a gift from Kid Robot. To say nothing of all the glory. Cash is cool, right?

What do you recommend to first-time Jell-O architects? Experiment!! Experiment!! Experiment!! But please try not to make our judges sick.

Do you have a favorite jiggle word/sound? Wiggle? Waggle? Blub blub? Shimmy? We prefer the variant "jiggly."

And now for some non-Jell-O questions...

Favorite comfort food? NS: Chicken salad—my favorite meal as a kid was a chicken salad sandwich with a side of chicken salad.
MZ: Red bean mochi ice cream balls—they are like crack.

Guilty pleasures? NS: Snack foods that are about two ingredients away from qualifying as a durable plastic.
MZ: Cheez-its and hot dogs with cheese filling.

Describe your perfect meal. NS: Pan-seared scallops. I also had a very memorable, and I contend near perfect, meal at a gas station in a tiny fishing village in Iceland.
MZ: One that a guy pays for—this hasn’t happened for a while. And if a guy is paying, I would like the pork chop at Diner in Williamsburg.

What food won't you eat? NS: Prawns. (I have very strong opinions about prawns in general.) And also, the lunches my dad packed for me from grades 3 to 7. I appreciate the care with which he made them and his dedication (he refused to let anyone else make lunches and believe me, I lobbied hard), but it's really, really hard to eat a sandwich made out of leftover peas.
MZ: The chicken wings on the floor of the G Train.

What do your family and friends think of your food obsessions?
NS: Part and parcel—they already think I’m strange.
MZ: Well, I’m organizing a Jell-O mold competition and my older sister is entering a bodybuilding competition, so, yeah. I think I am also going to be banned from ever mentioning the word “Jell-O” around my friends again after the event.

What is your favorite meal of the day, and what's your go-to spot for it? NS: Dinner at Fanelli's Cafe in Soho for a cheeseburger with Swiss and fries.
MZ: Also dinner, but at Choice Market in Clinton Hill for the grilled skirt steak panini.

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