Food Ink, a futuristic restaurant with branches in Barcelona and London, uses fresh food and natural ingredients as the raw materials for 3D printing to serve up what it describes as ‘edible art’.
The first of its kind in the world, the restaurant prints everything from cutlery to food and the chefs personalise their intricate tailored designs for customers.
The trend — take note, the pixel to plate revolution — is just one of the innovations that will be on offer to restaurant-goers and gourmands in the not-too-distant future.
And there’s an awful lot more on the menu. You can expect to see everything from flavour chemists and showmanship to menus equipped with emojis so that you can say how you feel about the music and ambient lighting.
Restaurants of the future may even ask diners to complete a short taste profile or personal questionnaire after they make a reservation. Apart from the usual questions — dietary needs and preferences — you might also be asked to describe your day, your favourite holiday and yourself in three well-chosen words so that the chef can create a customised dining experience.
Pie in the sky?
Not at all, says David Deeley, a consumer insight executive at The Thinking House, Bord Bia’s insight centre where a team of 15 people have been looking at what Michelin-star chefs and high-end restaurants are doing all around the world, from London and New York to Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.
The answers are summarised in a fascinating study released by Bord Bia earlier this month as part of an initiative to bring culinary inspiration to the Irish food and drink industry.
“We want to inspire our clients to develop new products,” David Deeley tells Feelgood.
“This type of research helps Ireland’s food and drink industry to look forward and it acts as a catalyst for new thoughts and ideas, providing inspiration for new product development and commercial growth.”
So what’s new? Eleven Madison Park in New York, the world’s best restaurant of 2017, now employs ‘dream weavers’ — a very polite version of an earwigger — who listen in to their guests’ conversations and then report back to the chef who cleverly integrates what clients are saying into their dishes. The next time you’re asked how you’d like your steak, think of The French Laundry in California where chefs offer 24 options between ‘rare’ and ‘well done’ thanks to a sous-vide cooking technique that allows for the highest degree of temperature precision.
In Tokyo, Sushi Taku takes food-tracing to the extreme; every dish comes with a physical encyclopaedia so that diners can research the ingredients on the menu.
At home, chefs are also embracing change as people go to restaurants in greater numbers. According to Bord Bia’s Insight Team, Irish people are now more likely to eat out at any time of the day rather than just in the evening. Irish restaurants are also following some of the big trends that are emerging in the world’s leading restaurants such as simplicity and sustainability.
David Deeley explains: “If we jump back to the early 2000s, you would see that fine dining was all about molecular gastronomy with foams, emulsions and science. Fast forward 10 years, and we see organic farming, foraging and less cooking starting to emerge with fine dining now seen as accessible to everyone.”
He cites Forest Avenue in Dublin 4 as an example, where husband and wife team John and Sandy Wyer use seasonal ingredients and even used beef dripping to make soap. Nordic-style cuisine, showmanship and storytelling are also going to be big on the menus of tomorrow.
“Food has a soul, a story,” says chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen of Restaurant Jan in Nice, France. “A new trend in restaurants is for the chefs to be more hands-on and in the front, taking the plates out and describing where it comes from.”
All that’s left to say after that is ‘bon appetit’.