Sunday, October 26, 2014

INTERVIEW: Gourmet Gaming on Bringing the Pixels to the Plate

Daniella Zelli is the creator of Gourmet Gaming, a Tumblr devoted to recreating video game food in real life. Not only is she an avid video gamer and chef; she is an artist. If there's a delicacy in your favorite game, chances are she's made it. Sinner's Sandwich from Deadly Premonition? Check. Some delicious Chateau Romani? Check. Some Old Gateau to go with your Belle Classic Tea? Double-check!
While she has been featured on such things like Kotaku and my beloved Nintendo Power, she took some time to chat with me and fill me in on what she's been doing lately. Let's see what's cookin'! (That was a bad joke; I apologize for that.)

So.... who exactly are you?
My name is Daniella and I'm a test analyst and graphic artist. I used to work in the games industry. Basically, I'm just a long time videogame fan who really likes to eat good food.

Why did you decide to make Gourmet Gaming?
I was unemployed and needed a project to keep my mind focused. I'd been playing Deadly Premonition and the Sinners Sandwich inspired me. It got me thinking about all the other iconic foods in games. When I made the Sinners Sandwiches for my friends for a playthrough party, I realised more people might be interested in eating food from games.

Were you surprised by the popularity of Gourmet Gaming?
I was totally surprised. It wasn't long after I started the blog that it got featured on Kotaku and took off, which was after I made the Minecraft cake. It's such a niche concept, but I guess it had a wide appeal when you think about it.

What was it like when Nintendo Power (among other websites and magazines) reached out to you?
It was really flattering, it still is, when people want to talk to me about my work and what I've done. Having photographers come to my house for national newspapers, and Wired was a surreal experience. But it's very exciting that I've gotten to share my work in that way, that other people think it's important to share.

What kinds of games did you play when you were young? Which were your favorites? 
I had a Sega MegaDrive as my first console and I was, still am, obsessed with Mickey's Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion. They were the first games that really sparked my love of games, and the first games I completed. It was a passion from then on. I was very fortunate that my mom loved games too and played with me and encouraged me to play. She saw them as a positive in my life.

What is the absolute worst abomination of a game you have ever played?

This is a very good question, and one I've never been asked! Although as I've gotten older and have worked in the industry, I find it harder to be negative because I'm aware of the seriously hard work and dedication that goes into each game, even if I haven't enjoyed it. I like to think there's always something redeeming in the design or gameplay to find. Even if I'm not particularly enjoying a game I will try my best to finish it - as for specifics, I'd rather keep quiet and encourage others to seek a more thoughtful analysis or why they didn't enjoy a game, rather than declaring it "awful".

What do you think your most successful recipe was? 

In terms of raw numbers, I believe the Minecraft cake is the most "successful". Personally, I'm always so impressed I made the Guild Wars 2 Chocolate Omnomberry cake. It was flawless, both in taste and appearance.

What recipe took the longest to perfect?

Each recipe can take a lot of time and though and effort to get just right. Cookies and cakes, sweet things, are harder than savoury as it's more of a science. Getting the right crumb or texture. A lot of work went into getting the Cookie from Super Time Force just right. I must have made about 5 kinds of cookies.
The Minecraft cake is also very difficult due to all the measurements and dimensions. It's very time consuming.

What was the worst recipe you made?

Anything that's genuinely bad I refuse to post. If I wouldn't eat it, then it doesn't get shared. I have fans who make everything I post, and while some are better than others they are all good and tasty and edible. I'd quite like to change to redo some of the older recipes now I know more, and recently I remade the Portal Cake which was my first post. It turned out 100 times better and more accurate and people really enjoyed that. Sometimes things just don't work though and I go back to the drawing board.

Are there any recipes you gave up on? 

I "give-up" on quite a few things, meaning I've tried and it's just not working and I've run out of time before a post. Anything I "give-up" on, is not abandoned though, it just means I need to rethink my approach to the recipe. One that has bested me several times is the Boiled Creme Treat from Elder Scrolls. Creme Caramel is harder than you think - but someday!

Any hints on what recipes are you working on?

I have an extensive database with hundreds of foods from games. Sometimes people will request them or I'll see them myself and take note. I'll pick from these and consider upcoming releases when putting together a blog post plan. It's also worth noting that Halloween is coming up...

Is there any food too disgusting and repulsive to be made?

I love Abe's Oddysee, and I would love to make a scrab cake or mudokon pop, but the moral implications of those foods is almost too much to handle. I can't imagine the taste and textures. Bleh! Costume Quest also has some pretty nasty yet incredible gross-out foods.

Lastly, what's next for Gourmet Gaming? 
I feel like I've hit a point where I need to make a big push. I'm currently looking into book publishing and perhaps sponsorship to help out financially. I've branched out slightly and I've attended food and gaming conventions where I'm hoping to provide reviews from Gourmet Gaming's unique perspective.
I would like to thank Daniella for this conversation; she was one of the reasons I decided to make a Tumblr in the first place and I'm a huge fan of he work. Keep on cooking!
On a different note, I apologize for my inherent laziness lately. I've been struggling with high school which has been quite cumbersome, but I will try to keep posting stuff. For National Cat Day, I'm gonna do a special post on my Tumblr (which should be a rather.... surreal exprience), so keep your eyes peeled or follow me! (Shameless self-promotion: check.) I am still looking for my next client, and I apologize to anybody I've lost in the mail. I'll reach out to you eventually.
See you on the 29th! 

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