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Thrillingly, it feels like a genuine breakthrough: a fully collaborative gastronomic symposium addressing the future of food and gastronomy as a vehicle for change at London’s Town Hall Hotel on the 18 April 2018.
Project Gastronomía is building a global network of multi-disciplinary eaters, organizations, as well as industry professionals who care about the future of their food system. Created in 2016 by representatives from the Basque Culinary Centre, IDEO, Azurmendi and Open Agriculture from MIT Media Lab, the project is seeking out creative ways by which we can cooperate globally to create a positive impact on a more sustainable, healthier and delicious future.
Introducing the symposium, Juan Carlos Arboleya, food scientist, manager of the Food Industry Programme and director of the Master in Gastronomic Sciences of the Basque Culinary Center, postulated that we are going to change our relationship with food. We are likely to live longer and food may become a luxury. Arboleya sees a future where technology, artificial intelligence, robotics will play a greater role in food and we will be more conscious of mindful eating.
Food as an immersive experience
Flavour is a construct of the mind: it is about smell, sight, sound, colour, music, as much as taste. Jozef Youssef, the creative force behind Kitchen Theory and associate editor of The International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science was the first among the panel of experts to provide inspiration for a collective exercise on planning for the future. Multi-sensory design, Youssef explained, will likely become more important in giving us satisfying expectations from food in the future.
We are going to take a more scientific approach to hospitality to understand what encourages people to enjoy their food whether gastronomically or in hospitals, schools or care homes, he explained.
Youssef thinks giving a food a heightened sense of crunch, for example, would make it believable as a healthy, sustainable alternative to a food less available or less good nutritionally.
Creating a more immersive, connected and collaborative experience is for the interior and branding design agency founder Afroditi Krassa the future: “Diners no longer want a hushed experience, they want to be among the brigade, and the boundaries between restaurant and performance are getting blurred: it is educating, inspiring and tasty”.
Charlotte Catignani, R & D innovator with a PHD in Medicinal Chemistry working for Treatt in the flavour industry to spearhead open innovation. She sees the future in using technology to creative bespoke everyday healthy, sustainable, delicious eating choices.
Bring biodiversity to the table
The role of chefs is likely to change, as more mechanical work is done by machines and robots. Will chefs become more involved in food optimization?
A chef specializing in bio-diversity, Virgilio Martinez introduced his doctor sister Malena Martinez with whom he has developed the Mater Iniciativa lab and the MIL restaurant in the core of the Andes.
The Martinez’s wonder at the sheer biodiversity of indigenous ingredients: 4200 potatoes, 1000 edible plants in the Amazon alone, 300 varieties of quinoa. In order to put his diners more in touch with the sheer diversity of products dependent on its micro-climate, Martinez has introduced a menu based on different altitudes from the jungle to the Andes served to only 20 guests. Speaking of how technology can be used to help agriculture, he recalled admiringly the drones used to look at soil types for different Peruvian crops.
Looking at the bigger picture, sustainable development advocate, Paul Newnham of the World Food Programme is adamant: “Our global goals need to be to end hunger and achieve food security. Practically, we need to attract more people into agriculture and reconsider what crops we grow that are good for farmers and people.”
Future in Our Hands
In groups of assembled gastromakers (journalists, academics, eaters, chefs), we were set the challenge of outlining how we would describe a person of 2050 and a product, service or new business model. The originality, creativity and sheer commonality of our ideas was astounding as was the fun we had in arriving at our persona and artefact of the future. An element of wearable monitoring of appetite and nutrition were part of every pitch.
Similarly, awareness of the problems of insularity and loneliness with distance working culture increasingly the norm were addressed with greater provision for commonality in the shopping, cooking and eating. A “Dinecraft” app as a way for older singles to shop locally, meet, cook and eat together, vied with a high tech toothbrush that would ascertain bespoke nutritional needs, “read” the fridge and guard against over-eating was ingenious. Addressing the whole picture, a GHS Green Habitat Space with living walls fed via fishtanks and almost kibbutz-like sharing of skills, gardening, dining, waste disposal and household/parenting was more utopic.
Throughout the day, we certainly felt as if we were helping the seeds of change. The next step? The future is not what it used to be, it’s clear. Project Gastronomia will report back the findings of the symposium to rethink a better future.