“If I grabbed you and said, make a better world, you have the position to do whatever you want – what would you do? What would you change?” Ignacio de Juan-Creix waits for a response. The Barcelona-based designer expects most people to have a long list of answers to this question, a quick ‘change-the-world’ set of notes stored on their phone, but it's clear that not everyone thinks like him.
Creative Director at Nu4mat, an agency of self professed “technology artisans,” de Juan-Creix oversees a crew dedicated to “innovation, singularity and disruption to the different industries” – one of which is gastronomy.
“We are trying to bring people the future as soon as we can, now if possible,” he says. The team do this is in a number of ways: working with augmented reality, visual projection mapping, and designing new products aimed at changing the way people consume food. One of their biggest and funnest projects is “non-gravital food” – a way to produce food that floats.
“We started to think about the future and how if we eventually live in space, everything will be without gravity. So we were trying to get these feelings now. We combined different technologies, such as sonic levitation, gases, some electrical levitations, all to generate flying food.”
And the results are impressive: a floating loaf of bread spins perfectly above the table – imagine how easy it would be to clean the crumbs; foams on edible strings rise out of a box and can be flavoured with whatever ingredient is desired. “We can have the thing flying between 60 and 90 seconds, we were at 40 but we’ve doubled that.”
De Juan-Creix says it all started with a fascination to produce a flying bonbon, which was eventually achieved through combining different gases such as helium and argon – and other gases from the same family that can’t be revealed at the moment: “We’re working on the patent,” he says.
They now want to bring the idea of floating food to home users: “Now we are producing not just the flying bonbon but also the machine … a toaster–like machine where you can put the gases and the liquids inside and you have edible forms of foams – flavours that fly.”
The bread, somewhat of a magic trick, is actually levitated using magnets – a metalic digestive roadblock to introducing the same technology in restaurants, but de Juan-Creix is already onto iteration 12. “Now we’re starting to produce dishes that can be levitated, we have worked on around eight different ways to produce these and we are focused on a table where you could have all the dishes levitating in front of guests.”
The ideas come from a new breed of designers who are focusing their skills on the culinary world, a place full of active and adventurous guests. De Juan-Creix calls it “Augmented Gastronomy” – a meeting of technology and food that produces experiences like no other. “We apply imaginary concepts to real spaces,” he says.
He’s now developing the Institute of Augmented Gastronomy – a space in Barcelona that’s going to explore new areas of technology, food and beverages and how they can be further combined.
Whether that involves 4D cakes for one of Spain’s most famous bakeries – they actually made a robotic cake – floating bonbons for kids to make at home, or projection mapping for better wine displays, the work is something that de Juan-Creix and his crew are happy to tackle. “We are young people trying to redesign the world. Our vision is not to be rich, but to have fun, to learn and to wonder what our limits are.
“The future doesn't exist yet, the only thing that always exists is the change – change is always happening. We want to disrupt with sense and this way we could really change the world.”