Bento makers like Mike Kravanis take the idea of playing with their food to a whole other level. A 40-year old from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Mike is passionate about his hobby, the results of which are artistic and appetizing at the same time. A Japanese word for a meal served in a box often consisting of rice, fish or meat, and pickled vegetables, Bento is also popularly done in a style called "kyaraben" wherein the bento is elaborately designed to look like popular characters from Japanese animation. Mike puts his own twist into his bento by taking the characters he’s loved from his own childhood and recreates them in his quirky lunch masterpieces.
Moms these days often have a difficult time getting their kids to eat fruits and vegetables which can have negative results to their health. It may just take their favorite characters adorning their lunchboxes to gently nudge them into a healthier diet. Kyaraben bento boxes are challenging little projects that require love and passion from conceptualization to execution but if it gets you or your kids to eat healthier, it will all be worth it.
Mike with Heimlich of A Bug's Life
Tell us about a little thing about you and your bento making hobby?
My love for bento, specifically kyaraben, allows me to express my creative and artistic side. For me, bento is a chance to channel my love of Disney and other art through my lunch. I work a technical job for a living. Everything about my job is logic and order. Creating something simply for the joy of it gives me a chance to let my imagination go wild. Over time it evolved for me. I continue to push my art in new directions. I've learned to do stop-motion animation using food and started fabrication of faux food. However at the heart of what I do is my bento lunches.
How do you come up with your designs?
I base most of my bento boxes on a character. I start with a reference picture and then just create it as I go along. Sometimes I'll be inspired by a vegetable I see while shopping, like "that pepper would make great hair." Most of the time I base it on something that is happening soon, a holiday, a event at a park or a movie or tv release.
Share with us what your favorite bento goods and tools are?
I use a lot circle and oval cookie cutters, cake tips, and a few bento shape cutters for making small shapes. A knife or tiny scissors for cutting the rest. Mostly for the shape of my rice ball, it'll just be freehand. Plastic wrap is perfect for handling the rice.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to try their hand at bento making?
Just play and have fun! If you are going to spend time making your food cute, then make sure you enjoy it. Focus on characters you love and put your heart into it. Bento is your personal expression so make what you will love to eat or what someone you love will like to eat. Something as simple as a smiley face can change a boring box into a fun lunch.
Among the bentos you’ve done, which is your favorite?
My favorite is always changing because I tend to love what I made last. My latest favorite is Ludo from Star Vs The Forces of Evil. He has just an adorable evil grin. My favorite classic bento would be the cutie Evil Queen from Snow White with her bubbling pea cauldron.
For more ideas on how to change up you or your kid’s lunch with fun and healthy lunch box ideas, check out Mike’s social media links:
Photos property of Mike Kravanis