Ivy Ackerman: Innovating The Dining Experience
In the lead-up to our PSFK 2017 conference, we look back at key speakers from past years. Culinary experience strategist Ivy Ackerman on how to capitalize on new experiences from old traditions
Food culture, from the presentation to the plating, is strongly rooted in tradition. Whether you’re in New York or Montreal, eating a bagel will be rushed and crowded. People don’t mind because that’s tradition. The opposite is true for fine dining as well. A high-end restaurant will typically offer tasting menus and be decorated with white linens and candelabras. It’s what people expect because it’s tradition. At the annual PSFK conference in New York City, Ivy Ackerman, founder of culinary events company Butter and Egg Road, shared a trend she’s seeing in the food industry that merges dining experiences from opposite ends of the spectrum to create new traditions for established cuisines.
Ackerman calls this new trend “High-Low Dining.” It takes a traditional style of dining and fuses it with its exact opposite.
One example of this is Blanca, a Michelin-rated restaurant in the heart of Brooklyn’s up-and-coming Bushwick neighborhood. It is everything you would expect from a high-end Manhattan restaurant: a long wait list for reservations, 20-course tasting menus, an intimate dining experience. The only difference is, it’s in Bushwick. “It’s putting a new lens on luxury,” explains Ackerman.
A slightly different iteration of this trend comes in the form of a bagel. Sedelle’s is a New York bakery and restaurant that reframes the bagel experience serving diners at their tables, serving lox on silver tea stands and enjoying the bagel on Le Creuset plates. “The bagel never looked so good,” according to Ackerman.
Ackerman believes High-Low dining stems from the human desire to want to discover something new. “We’re going to want the rainbow food, we’re going to want the cricket, maybe,” she explains, “but what we also crave is to be surprised and delighted by the reinvention of the old.” The drive to High-Low dining comes more from the experience of reinventing the experience rather than the food. “For millennials who we know relish the experience, it gives chefs the tools they need to capture a new audience that is always looking for the next.”
Ackerman closed by saying that if we change the way we look at food, the food itself will change.