Symmetry Breakfast, with love

Doubled up breakfasts, fantastic food and a London based couple: today's Instagram sensation

by Federica Carr
Il londinese Michael Zee ogni mattina prepara una

Il londinese Michael Zee ogni mattina prepara una colazione diversa, perfettamente simmetrica, per sé e per il suo compagno Mark van Beek. Le foto di Symmetry Breakfast sono diventate virali e i due hanno centinaia di migliaia di followers su Instagram


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The idea is actually pretty simple and, like many genius ones, was born by chance. One morning some time ago, Michael made breakfast for his boyfriend Mark who had just moved in with him. He noticed the two plates were almost completely symmetrical and posted a photo of them on Instagram.

Quickly, the ‘likes’ grew and grew and so Symmetry Breakfast was born: every morning a different breakfast, but always precisely mirrored on two plates. Power of the social media, Michael Lee has in a short time attracted an impressive number of followers (600,000 and counting), and has become one of the influencer of the food scene.

Mark van Beek and Michael Zee

Mark van Beek and Michael Zee

We catch up not for breakfast but for an afternoon coffee, eager to meet him in person and hear what he makes of the enormous success he’s having. Michael even quit his full time occupation at the Victoria & Albert museum to dedicate his whole time to the project and has a book coming out soon, which, financially, is alone worth leaving his job for.

«It is not a matter of putting two croissants and cafe au lait on line and say ‘here is a french breakfast’ – he tells us – I love culinary history and I read a lot, in order to be able to prepare dishes that have tradition and culture behind them».

The photos Michael publishes are really beautiful, apart from the mirrored styling. The food is harmonious and colourful, plated with great care using his incredible crockery collection; he is keen to specify that the dishes need to taste great too and not just be there to please the eye; flavours are paramount. Everything he cooks has a lot of research behind.

Inspiration comes not only from the past but also listening to family and friends, their anecdotes and stories, to create food that is often unusual but always full of character. «What I do is storytelling and that is my main aim; I don’t want to sell anything nor preach with long descriptions. Instagram is a specific medium, a channel for visual narrative».

And the stories he tells through the images are so many; Michael has Chinese and Scottish heritage, Mark van Beek is Dutch but lived in Italy and this multiculturalism offers a great starting point to create. Friends’ memories and traditions as well as every day events can provide surprising ideas and inspiration.

So often we see strange combinations on plates which are nevertheless mouth-watering: scrambled eggs with salted anchovies on toast (a Victorian recipe), a Swedish Rågkaka (flatbread) with smoked salmon, eggs and caviar (for the Eurovision contest) or an occhio di bue (beef’s eye) pastry and a macchiato straight from Florence’s San Lorenzo Market during a holiday in Italy.

How long in advance does he plan what to cook? «I would rather not prepare too much and be free to be reactive to what goes on around me, especially during unexpected events». For the day of the EU Referendum, however, he had already designed his version of a ‘continental breakfast’: not the boring hotel version but a homage to a united Europe, never mind Brexit. Even on the plate, we’re better together.