There was a time when Instagram was all about food porn. (Oh, and also pets and kids and gym selfies.) Now, if Patrick Nguyen has any say, it will be much more about food art.
That’s because Nguyen, who operates under the made-up handle @dozfy, has racked up quite a following, mainly due to his menu art. Like a Clark Kent and Banksy hybrid, this healthcare worker by day, sketch artist by night, leaves elaborate menu drawings in his wake as a secondary gratuity for cooks.
“Menus are my way of thanking the people in the back of the house, because I feel like they go unrecognized,” he says.
An art school alum of the University of Texas at Austin, Nguyen’s first menu drawing was at Chicago’s Blackbird in September 2014. He’s since moved on to Atlanta and Seattle, where he currently resides, using everything from pizza boxes to coffee cups as his canvases.
It’s always great when they look at me like I’m crazy when I ask for something to draw on.
“The best part of it is the process — problem solving and looking at the image, deciding what medium you want to use, deciding what composition you want. [Menu art] is my free trial run to try different approaches. What can I draw with this pen? What can I get away with?”
Even though each sketch only takes Nguyen about 10 minutes, much more goes into his pre-production: the size of the menu, the ingredients used and overall cuisine determines what he draws. “When I start eating, it changes,” Nguyen notes. “What’s the flavor profile, what’s the texture? There’s a cultural aspect to menu art as well. For example, I can’t do menu art at most Vietnamese restaurants because their menus are either on the wall or the menus are laminated.”
If that’s the case, Nguyen will often ask for a receipt to draw on instead.
It’s usually not until he’s tagged on Instagram that he gets confirmation the kitchen has received his drawing. But if Nguyen had his way, he’d be able to see every reaction in person — good or bad.
“Both reactions are pure reactions, so I don’t think there’s bad or good. But it’s always great when they look at me like I’m crazy when I ask for something to draw on, and I give them the finished menu and they’re like, ‘Shoot! I didn’t know you were going to draw, draw!’ Those kind of reactions stick in my head, but there’s really no bad reaction.”
If Nguyen’s plan for world domination pans out, you’ll be seeing his drawings in every major city. And unlike Banksy’s work, Dozfy menus will always be free.