Symposiasts: How do we understand the aesthetics of dining?
What’s the place of theatre and illusion in the experience of dining?
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Whilst the aestheticisation of the dining experience is arguably not a recent phenomenon, it has in recent times been subjected to intensive scrutiny, critique and participation from industry, media and consumers.
The techno-emotive legacy of pioneer chefs such as Ferran Adrià, Grant Achatz and Heston Blumenthal is highly discernable in contemporary Chefs creating multi-sensory dining experiences; ones that are a vortex of cultural markers, culinary art and scientific collaboration and incorporation that, at their centre, are rich in aesthetic detail and intensity.
Within this trend we are seeing an extensional genre within the sphere of multi-sensory dining. One where the sensory relationship between the diner, the food and the environment is focused and controlled to a such a degree that they are immersive, even theatrical, in their nature. Experiences, some of which not hold multiple Michelin stars, where diners are willing to spend as much as $2,000USD each to participate.
However, with such immersion and focus, arguably comes isolation, sensorially if not physically. Commensality, the act of eating and drinking at the same table is a fundamental social activity. If the immersive experience is so individually focused to the extent that the dinner is sensorially isolated, have we not detached ourselves from one of the principle tenets of why we dine in the first place?
This paper aims to map the rise of the immersive dining trend, its place in the genre of multi-sensory dining, Gastrophysics and techno-emotive cuisine and its contribution to the aestheticisation of culinary arts; to answer the question, is this or is this not dining or merely theater with food.
Born and educated in Scotland Neil Gow holds a Masters Degree in Gastronomic Tourism from Le Cordon Bleu and Southern Cross University where he authored a thesis entitled “Leveraging Gastronomic Science & Culinary Trends to Embetter Society’s Ability to Eat Well Now and in the Future”. He is currently undertaking research at Macquarie University in New South Wales into the culinary creative processes employed by contemporary chefs in Australia as well as internationallyHe additionally holds a Diplôme Universitaire du Goût, de la Gastronomie et des Arts de la Table from the Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Neil works with a number of internationally recognised culinary and gastronomic organisations and lectures on a range of subjects including Modernist Cuisine, Gastrophysics as well as the Art and Science of Multi-sensory dining.