Why eye-catching design matters in cuisine
If you think back to your favourite fine dining experience, the chances are you’ll be able to remember more than just how the food tasted. You might recall how the food was presented or remember the superior service that you received.
This is what the French have coined gourmet, a category of dining that comprises much more than simply the bare ingredients. For the top-rated chefs, preparing and serving food is much more than the act of cooking a meal — it’s an art form.
As such, luxury diners should be treated to culinary experiences, not just an amalgamation of food on a plate — no matter how attractive that plate might look. Michelin stars and global praise are given to those who achieve this.
The work of Heston Blumenthal is a prime example. This TV chef approaches food with an almost scientific mindset — making a meal becomes an experiment, and his diners are the willing guinea pigs. In fact, Blumenthal was the first to explore multi-sensory cooking — where several of our senses are stimulated, rather than just taste — in his avant-garde dishes such as The Sound of the Sea.
The key senses that humans use to navigate the world are also used to appreciate cuisine. In this article, we’ve collaborated with bespoke food packaging provider Takeaway Packaging to discover how our sense of sight relates to the food that we eat.
Humans Are Instinctively Attracted to Beauty
Our preference for fine dining may well be explained by our evolution. Humans have an instinctive preference for design, which dates back to ancient times, where imagery was used to decorate pottery.
Our obsession with beautiful details, symmetry and recurring patterns is instilled in us for good reason — they helped our ancestors survive. From the intricate patterns on plants to the symmetry of a potential partner’s face, we have used pattern recognition to help determine our best chances of survival, be that choosing the strongest and most fertile mate or assessing the safety of our environment. Seeing beauty in the world around us, therefore, tells we are safe, in the right environment and happy.
It’s no surprise, then, that finding patterns in our food and the correct composition on our plates elevates our culinary experience.
The way our food looks can also lead us to believe that it tastes better. Sight may be a separate sense to taste, but the two remain inherently connected. In this vein, the time spent creating the visual appearance of a dish is not wasted and is just as important as getting the balance of flavours right.
Presentation and Palette Define Fine Dining
However, this isn’t to say that high-quality and tasty food plays a lesser role in the concept of fine dining.
Grant Achatz — famous for his interesting pairings and modern cooking techniques — demonstrates the technicality of “flavour bouncing”, a term that summarises the way Achatz decides on a dish’s ingredients by mapping out their suitability on paper.
Evidently, refining the palette of a dish will always remain a top priority for luxury providers. What’s interesting, though, is how palette can be influenced by the presentation — the initial inspiration for a dish might come from unrelated events and external circumstances, such as listening to a song, visiting a place or even feeling a specific emotion. It’s the goal of the chef to convey and replicate these experiences by presenting the dish in a certain way.
Ultimately, for an experience to be considered fine dining, it must have both palette and presentation at its core.
This idea is more prominent than ever, with a new age of customer favouring experiences over physical products. Restaurants must work to deliver a service that goes beyond the food itself. Smoking cocktails, eccentric tableware and dissolving desserts are all being used to provide unique and innovative experiences that cannot be found elsewhere.
Taking Design from Table to Takeout
The rise in casual dining has left a gaping hole in the market for customers who want to experience the quality of fine dining in a more relaxed environment.
Key consumer trends drive the same customers who regularly attend prestigious restaurants to desire informal options they can grab on the go but without compromising on quality. The increase in digital technology use — where online reviews and instant ordering have led to heightened expectations and the desire for instant gratification — has created a thriving market for businesses that can offer gourmet options as conveniently packaged takeout food.
In this scenario, it’s crucial that the beauty of our food is not compromised. Bespoke packaging providers are fast becoming the missing piece to this puzzle.
But eye-catching cuisine also needs to possess a third element — sustainability — to satisfy our new expectations of luxury. We’re members of a more conscious generation increasingly concerned about the beauty of our planet. Once again, our natural instincts take over, leading us on a mission to protect our environment.
It isn’t enough for premium food to look good: it should also be packaged in sustainable containers — using quality materials like Kraft paper — and made beautiful using veggie-based inks. Palette is crucial and extraordinary design also matters, but it is sustainability that will drive the next era of fine dining.