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These Are The People In Your Neighborhood: Mike Geno

September 2, 2013

Mike Geno is truly a connoisseur of the finer edible things in life, and his vast knowledge of gourmet dining and ingredients rivals that of most industry professionals. But Mike is more than just a food-obsessed Philadelphian… he also happens to be one the most talented and prolific fine artists in the city. His oil paintings of meats, cheeses, breads and sushi are staggeringly beautiful – wonderfully executed compositions that may just change the way you see and appreciate the delicious subject matter. We at Hog Island Press have long been huge fans of Mike, and we recently had the opportunity to get to know him a little bit better. Bon Appétit!

hogislandpress_mikegeno

Who are you?
Just a food-obsessed artist that somehow managed to combine two things I love and make a living at it. Some people may know me by my meat art or my local food art and some by my more recent cheese portrait series. I’ll have a local “Rittenhouse” show in Metropolitan 215 Gallery this December which will feature food art (paintings and prints) based on my main dealers um, er, I mean “suppliers”:  Zama sushi, Di Bruno Bros. cheese and Metropolitan Bakery’s bread.

What’s your favorite Philly sandwich?
There’s so many great ones for various levels of indulgence, but my ecstasy in sandwich form is clearly the Gustaio, from Paesano’s. It’s the perfect storm of flavor.

Can you share your best Philly hidden culinary gem?
Hidden? Absolutely not, but I’d be willing to bet most people in the city haven’t discovered the tiny cheese-bistro in Old City; Wedge + Fig. That place is truly a gem for foodies and cheese enthusiasts alike.

What’s your favorite Philly slice?
I fell hard and fast in love with Pizza Brain in Fishtown. My current crush is on their “Kira Tierston”: aged mozzarella, smoked bacon, red onions, garlic and oven-roasted Brussels sprouts.

Describe your perfect day in Philadelphia.
A perfect-weathered day where spontaneity plays a large role in what turns out to be a fun bar and food crawl throughout the city. I love that about Philadelphia, it’s a walkable/eatable city!

Who’s your current favorite chef in the city?
I can’t answer that for a number of reasons. I organize a foodie group that occasionally tries out newish restaurants and that’s allowed me the pleasure of meeting a number of incredibly talented chefs. Also, I’m gearing up for a new series of paintings that will require some help and cooperation from Philly chefs. If I can pull it off, I’ll be exhibiting various dishes by them (and therefore including them) at the James Beard Foundation house where I have a show scheduled next March/April.

I’d feel more comfortable naming an unsung hero chef rather than a restaurant owner. Jack Goldenberg is a young chef that’s working at one of my favorite restaurants, Farm and Fisherman, and I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing a few of his pop-up dinners which always blew my tastebuds away. He’s also got a depth as an artist, thinker and urban farmer that makes him a fun person to hang out with.

Of all the great indigenous food products in this town, which are you fondest of?
Pretzels. I always knew, even before puberty.

What’s your favorite painting currently on display in a local museum?
Embarrassingly, I never seem to answer these type of questions in a way that ever satisfies or impresses my audience or interrogator. As a painter, I am always in awe of Eakins beautiful skill and painterly passion. So a short answer would be any of his work.

Instinctively though, the first thought that came to mind was completely different yet equally proud of being a Philadelphian. Years ago while in grad school, I had the pleasure of taking a good friend, who I have an enormous respect for as a artist and designer, to the PMA for the first time. She’s Scottish and it was her first visit to Philadelphia. It was Fall of 1999 and we came across a new acquisition of a Charles Burwell painting. I didn’t know Charles then but knew of him and his work.  Despite being a huge Duchamp fan, she seemed most impressed with the design brilliance of Charles contemporary painting and I felt more proud of that than anything else we viewed that day. I continue to enjoy his work as much as ever.

You can take 3 Philly-related albums on a roadtrip. What are they?
OMG. Hmm. well… considering my inherent need for balance I think it would include the nostalgic indulgence of H20 by Hall & Oates because my older sister played that repeatedly so much I knew every lyric (which I’ve yet to purge myself of). I’m also a sucker for melody. Second, I’d have to include something a bit more gritty, like The Roots. I’d have to round it out with something in between like Dr Dog.

Got a favorite HIP design?
My go-to tee shirt for the summer of 2013 has been the YOUS t-shirt!

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Thanks Mike! Also thanks to Di Bruno Bros. (who’s Italian Market location is still the center of Philadelphia’s culinary universe) for letting us hang out for a few minutes. Don’t forget to check out his show in December, and keep and eye out for Mike’s work other places around town, too – like a fine aged Gouda, it just keeps getting better and better. Sweet dreams are made of cheese…

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