When talking to food designers, you expect to hear about one thing – no, two things: food, and its shape. But when you ask Martí Guixé to talk about his vision for the future, imagining what might be on our table in 2050, he has no doubts: «In forty years, food will have no shape or flavor: it will be nutritional and, more importantly, the table will not exist anymore.»
With this premise, we’re off to a good start: after all, this is the man who first began to “dismantle” food, one piece at a time, in the mid-Nineties. It was he who began to question the sacred Spanish ritual of the tapas, putting the bread inside the tomato instead of under it so that it could be eaten in front of the computer with just one hand, without the risk of it spilling down the front of your shirt. It was he who created portions of “designer” potatoes that restaurants could serve at negligible prices thanks to their “sponsors”. It was he who described a food designer as «somebody working with food, without any idea about cooking». Considering all this, he’s earned the right to imagine the future of food without talking about food.
And it’s this last definition of food designer – which Guixé actually “stole” from his official photographer Inga Knölke – that I ask him about, curious as to whether – 15 years after his very first projects – he finds the dictum still valid. Especially now, when the borders between the experiments of haute cuisine and those of food design become harder and harder to distinguish. «Of course it’s still valid,” he says. «I started with food design in the mid-Nineties and people were very skeptic. Now it seems more normal, even if there’s a lot of confusion about what food design is. But there are differences between the two areas, and it’s the same difference between a designer and a carpenter: the moment that a designer builds a chair instead of designing a chair, he is a carpenter, but not a designer.» Following this explanation, there are chefs on the one hand, who cook food; and on the other hand, there are food designers, who use food to create – as if it were any other material like steel or ceramic. «Professionally, I don’t work with food,» Guixé makes a point of a explaining. «I work with edible objects.»
However you define his job, Martì Guixè’s work has always included food. And it still does. Now that his experimental period is well over, he’s signed off on all kinds of shared culinary experiences like the “Food Facility”, a restaurant without a kitchen, created in Amsterdam in 2005, where clients were given take-away menus from neighbouring eateries and then elegantly served at tables. Today, Guixé designs food objects for the Alessi brand and for this year’s edition of the Milan Design Week, he set up a solar-powered restaurant in the Triennale museum: after all, getting food on the table sometimes requires waiting for good weather.
So what’s the aim of a food designer? Guixé explains that a designer «should invent solutions that don’t yet exist, for modern needs that have already appeared.» Up until now, the objective has been to create edible objects that have been adapted for new lifestyles. In the last decade, even food has become ergonomic, functional, communicative. Even informative, as demonstrated by his I-cakes (shown here in the gallery). Consumer objects like many others, which follow the rules of marketing and the market.
And in the future? What are the upcoming challenges? «Mixing business models with high quality nutrition: this will be the era when performance surpasses texture and taste in terms of importance, when the most urgent objective will be understanding the effects food has on our bodies.»
In the meantime, even a food designer has to think of his own body: «I need to eat. You buy two or three chairs during your lifetime. But food? You consume it three times a day.»