Dine by Design is a new column on both Untapped Paris and New York which explores food through the lens of product, interior, and restaurant design. It will give readers a behind the scene look not merely at how food is prepared, but at how it is presented. In Paris, Diane Ruengsorn knows this topic intimately as the founder and director of Domestic Aesthetic, a design firm with close links to the restaurant industry, and from her eight years working for food magazines such as Gourmet and Saveur.
Chefs and designers are a natural pairing here in France, where I recently moved. I was drawn to how food and design were so intrinsically linked and after years of working in both fields, often simultaneously, France made sense to me. I loved how in a country so celebrated for its cuisine, food was another vehicle for artistic and visual expression. Thought goes into not only the presentation, but the experience of eating as a whole.
Take for example the Paris des Chefs conference in January which paired internationally renowned chefs with a designer or artist. Over three days, the showcase explored the bridges between “the art of cooking and the different fields of creation.” Bertrand Grébaut of the much hyped restaurant Septime (a graphic design student turned chef) discussed the influence of design on his work with his creative director, the designer and video director Thomas Jumin. Or one of my favorite sessions where the Spanish chef Josean Alija used the individual and dried leaves of leeks to create something similar to papyrus. The result was an edible page that could be decorated and painted on.
Such explorations are well appreciated in France, even in its educational system. The École Supérieure d’Art et de Design de Reims has a nearly ten year old program devoted to food design which “questions eating habits” and focuses on food’s relationship to society.
The program’s founder, Marc Bretillot, along with collaborators Jean-Charles Amey and Earlwyn Covington also created the recently launched multimedia platform called Thinking Food Design. Through invitations sent out to chefs, designers, and anyone interested in the topic, participants document their definitions in two minute videos that answer the simple question: “What is Food Design?” Videos are grouped by categories such as “emotion,” “performance,” or “innovation.”