Cheese made from celebrity bacteria to go on show

Five cheeses made from celebrity bacteria, including a Cheshire cheese crafted from the bacteria of former Blur bassist Alex James, are to go on display at the V&A museum in London.

A Cheddar cheese made with former Blur bassist Alex James’s bacteria will go on display at the V&A’s new food exhibition, Food: Bigger than the Plate, this month

Forming part of the V&A’s forthcoming exhibition – Food: Bigger than the Plate, among the other cheeses cultured from human bacteria on show will be a Comté fashioned from Heston Bluementhal’s bacteria and a mozzarella infused with rapper Professor Green’s microbes.

Visitors will also get to marvel at a Cheddar made from singer Suggs’ bacteria. The V&A describes the quintet as “unique microbial portraits”.

All five cheeses will appear in a refrigerated display within the exhibition at the V&A museum in South Kensington, which explores how innovative individuals and firms are radically reinventing how we grow, distribute and experience food.

Called ‘Selfmade’, the idea of making cheese from human bacteria was conceived in 2013 by smell researcher Sissel Tolaas and biologist Christina Agapakis.

The V&A project is being spearheaded by biodesigner Helene Steiner, chef John Quilter and scientist Dr. Thomas Meany at Open Cell, an open research centre for biotechnology in London’s Shepherd’s Bush.

Aiming to subvert the squeamishness surrounding bacteria and highlight the importance of microbes in keeping our guts healthy, Selfmade draws on recent scientific studies of the microbiome and its importance in how the human body functions.

To create the cheeses, Steiner took bacteria samples from the surface of the celebrities’ skin – including armpits, noses and belly buttons – using microbiology techniques to grow starter cultures, which were then combined with fresh pasteurised milk to make the cheeses.

Taking visitors on a sensory journey through the food cycle, from farm to table, the exhibition poses questions about how the collective choices we make can lead to a more sustainable food future in unexpected and playful ways.

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