— -- Imagine whipping out some volcanic lava at your next backyard barbecue to cook up some burgers – you’d be the absolute coolest host. Sounds farfetched, but two guys over in London don’t think it has to be.
Inspired by a trip to Japan where he visited a live volcano, the idea hit Sam Bompas while he was making s’mores.
“I packed some mallows and snuck over the barriers to the lava flows and roasted my mallows for s’mores,” Bompas said. “When I did that, I thought, “This is insane. This is how cooking should be done, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could bring it to more people?’”
Rather than just think that and move on (like most people probably would), Bompas was in a unique position to act on the whim. As co-founder of Bompas & Parr, a British company that creates what they call “immersive flavor-based experiences,” Bompas was used to producing lavish culinary experiences, like fireworks that coordinated with flavors pumped into the air, so as a red firework exploded, strawberry-flavored clouds surrounded the people watching.
After coming up with this lava concept, though, Bompas was faced with just one problem: where does one get lava?
Enter Robert Wysocki, who is known as a manmade lava expert. As a sculpture professor at Syracuse University, Wysocki worked with the geology department to build a furnace that reached 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit in order to melt special Wisconsin rock that then flows out as lava.
Bompas, and his partner Harry Parr, convinced Wysocki to let them cook food over the hot flowing magma.
“You get a lot of weird requests for it, and because I work so hard on it and it’s part of my artwork and I don’t want the scientists to think I’m some clown messing around with this, I turn that stuff down,” Wysocki said. “But they’re [Bompas and Parr] so legit and they’re functioning in some border between the whole food thing and entertainment, these events, fine art, installation and this multisensory experience. They’re functioning at the crossroads of these different discipline and there’s literally no one in the world doing that.”
Bompas and Parr were able to cook the steak in seconds once it was above the lava – and the results were just as Bompas hoped.
“They were awesome. We put them on when the lava was at heat, so you’ve got a really dense, thick char on the outside. I like my steaks medium rare so that’s how they had to be,” Bompas said. “With all this buildup, I can honestly say it was the best steak I’ve had in my entire life. It was an intense rib eye flavor sensation.”
If that sounds like something you want to experience, you may one day be able to, if Bompas had his way.
“We want to push this out and see if we can actually do it on a much larger scale. Can you imagine a restaurant where there’s a volcano in the corner constantly erupting?” he said. “Wood-fired pizza ovens are so last year, right? This is the way forward.”