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A Multisensory Dining Experience At Dutch Design Week

STIMULI leverages the psychological phenomenon of synesthesia to create unexpected taste sensations.

Hortense Koster
Hortense Koster on October 29, 2013.

As infants, we begin to experience new tastes by exploring our tactical senses. It is, in a sense, our original obsession. As adults, we still have an appetite to trigger those latent senses with fresh and unexpected delights. This desire is the motivation for the STIMULI  — a sensory dining experience presented during Dutch Design Week.

STIMULI was brought forth through a cooperation between design Studio Jinhyun Jeon, renowned Michelin star restaurant Treeswijkhoeve, and Ravanello Food & Concepts. Connected by their mutual passion for stimulating taste, they created an enhanced dining event: a five-course haute cuisine sensory menu served with tactile tableware — such as silicone ‘nipple’ cups, glazed ball spoons, and spiked tasting palettes — that excite the tongue, trigger taste buds, and alter the perception of salty, acidic, sweet, and bitter tastes for a new experience.

The project focuses on the subject of joint perception — sensorial disturbance inspired by phenomenon of synesthesia. The main objective of the food design experience was to understand how the human brain intuitively responds to different stimuli during eating, and as such contributes to a different way of producing consumer energy. This will provide insights outside of the existing food culture in which societal, technological, and environmental influences play an important role.

PSFK had the chance to chat with the renowned initiators of this project designer Jinhyun Jeon and master chef Dick Middelweerd:

Where did the idea for the STIMULI dining experience come from? 

D: Last year, I stumbled upon Jinhyun’s graduation project ’Tableware as Sensorial Stimuli’ and I was inspired immediately. When I contacted her and met up to experiment, and she suggested wearing earplugs when eating krupuk, I was skeptical at first. However, this experience was a revelation to me, and eventually an inspiration for our menu.

J: This collaboration is very unique, since there are not many designers who have the opportunity to work with a Michelin-star-awarded restaurant to create enriched, intuitive dining experiences by sensory stimuli, and explore the synesthetic effect. Besides using my tableware, we also applied a formula to disturb the perception of salty, acidic, sweet, and tastes, or changes them into something completely new.

What is your fascination with the project?

DPreviously at design dining events, the production has been great, but the taste of the food was a disgrace. I felt that the overall experience of these events could be improved by replacing sterile facilities with concrete benches with a professional dining environment featuring the best service and people in the kitchen. Jinhyun’s designs inspired me, and by working together, we combined our skills to take this food design project to the next level.

J: I am intrigued by how visitors experience the dishes and how the human brain responds to different stimuli during eating. Each dish focuses on a combination of senses, and is the subject of joint perception and sensorial disturbance of food inspired by phenomenon of synaesthesia. This is a neurological condition whereby a stimulus to one sense can amplify one or more of the other senses.

Overall, the STIMULI dining experience helps us to understand how tactile experiences can contribute to a different way of producing consumer foods — looking outside the existing food culture into the role societal, technological, and environmental influences play.

Click the thumbnails below to view more images of the experience, and watch the video below.

Dutch Design Week

Photo’s: Project ‘Tableware as Sensorial Stimuli’, Copyright © 2012-2013 Jinhyun Jeon

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Hortense Koster is the founder of Trndmrkr.com. Trndmrkr is a playground for creative and strategic thinkers. Her specialities are consumer insights, design, advertising & digital media

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