Bento Concept: A charaben site with a touch of elegance

Introducing a new regular feature: From time to time, I’ll be interviewing with bento artists/bloggers whose work I admire, as well as other bento-world related people.

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First up is Diana of the French bento blog Bento Concept. While most charaben/kyaraben are very, if not excessively, cute, Bento Concept’s bentos are much more sophisticated, even elegant. A lot of her ideas are deceptively simple and easy to replicate for anyone. Not only that, Diana mostly sticks to using the naturally occuring colors in food (radish mice, a green-pepper frog, oyster mushrooms as daffodil bulbs, proscuitto ham poppies) rather than added food colorings and such.

She usually provides a short summary of her posts in English, but you can gain a lot of inspiration from her blog just from the wonderful photos. Check out just a sampling of her creations below, and find out more about her.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I live with my husband and our 17 year old daughter in the Vendée, on the Atlantic coast of France. I’m interested in traveling, other cultures, art, traditional crafts, in fact I think I’m curious about a lot of things. I’m happy I started blogging a few monthsago, it’s like a window opened on the world.

Q. When did you first learn about bentos, especially charaben?

Bentos came on my way on a holiday trip to Japan, in the autumn of 2008. I was totally blown away by the colourful, aesthetic, appetizing way to pack food, as well as the practical side of a full meal in such a small box. I decided to make bentos a part of my life and started learning about the Japanese kitchen and bento as soon as I came home. I’ve been surfing a lot on the internet and it was there that I found out about charaben. At first I was surprised about people taking so much time and effort to decorate their food, but soon I was very intrigued by this kind of food art, and wanted to explore some of the possibilities myself.

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Q. For whom do you make your bentos?

Mainly I make bentos for my daughter, sometimes for myself or other people.

Q. What are your inspirations for your bentos?

Of course all the bento sites are highly inspirational, I’ll put that as the first reason, and secondly just everyday life; something I read, a conversation, a flower in the garden and so on.

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Q. Do you put aesthetics (the way the bento looks) first, or the nutritional balance?

When I really want to make a charaben, when I have an idea, I choose my food (or even buy it) especially for that occasion, but I make it a point of honor, to have at the end a good balanced bento, a real meal and not an image made out of food, that’s a full part of the challenge.

Q. How long does it take you to make a typical decorative (charaben) bento?

Sometimes just 15 minutes, but average time is about 2 hours.

Q. Do you only make decorative bentos, or do you make regular bento lunches also?

I make regular bento lunches (or dinners) as well, I just don’t show them on my blog. My creative mind is still sleeping when I need to make a bento early in the morning,  sometimes the available food in the fridge just doesn’t fit to make a charaben and of course, when you’re in a hurry, there’s no time for anything that isn’t essential.

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Q. What are your favorite bento sites?

Well, the two sites I read the most are Just Bento and Mook’s blog French Bento. I also try to follow some other French bloggers, as well as Lunch in a Box and e-obento.

Merci beaucoup to Diana for the interview and for allowing us to use some of her photos!

Bento Concept website

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

8 comments

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Re: Bento Concept: A charaben site with a touch of elegance

I love Bento Concept, so this interview is very welcome! I especially fell in love with the daffodils and the little radish mice.

Re: Bento Concept: A charaben site with a touch of elegance

OMG, those radish mice eating the little pieces of cheese are awesome.

Re: Bento Concept: A charaben site with a touch of elegance

I love the photos! Especially the radish mice! I miss having bento -- haven't had them since I was a kid -- so it's nice to see it is still around. Maybe I'll start making my own! :)

Re: Bento Concept: A charaben site with a touch of elegance

French people are very proud of her work! Bravo Diana!

Re: Bento Concept: A charaben site with a touch of elegance

OMG! Those little mice are sooo cute...! I have been a reader for quite some time, Maki, keep on the good job!:)

Re: Bento Concept: A charaben site with a touch of elegance

How cute and artistic! Thanks for introducing bento concept!

Re: Bento Concept: A charaben site with a touch of elegance

Wow, such artistry! I couldn't bear to eat much of what she makes...I'd be too busy running around crying "Look! Isn't this beautiful?" Haha

Takat
Writing away about my latest 3 week adventure through China at http://katacomb.blogspot.com

Re: Bento Concept: A charaben site with a touch of elegance

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