“Art is often meant to provoke discomfort, conversation, and awareness. This is no different. Everyone on here saying we are somehow oblivious need to think just a single level upwards.”
Nick Kokonas, Owner of Alinea
The confinement we experienced has shown that food is both the theme of the first solidarity towards caregivers and isolated people and the first motivation for confined people themselves: preparing delicious meals helps to create bonds with family and friends by sharing recipes, or to share moments of culinary experimentation of all kinds, and nowadays this process can be accompanied by the aegis of great chefs who have become culinary coaches.
In an era in which bars and restaurants are forced to close and in which a thousand and one ways of eating are invented beyond social and community networks, this theme questions the place of play, interaction, and collective life at the center of the kitchen creation process.
Food is a primary need, it is a fact, but does food give us something more than eating? What meanings and sensoriality do we give to experiential food? The culinary experience designer aims to give life to an adventure, to pass on a heritage and to help people discover a creative process and we can say that this moment fits perfectly with the plan of this sector in full upheaval.
Strawberries become tomatoes, and dishes are served on scented pillows: experiential cooking favors the flow of art into the cuisine. Entering this new type of restaurant, what is necessary is to leave behind any preconception about the idea of the restaurant itself.
This is precisely the concept that Grant Achaz, chef at Nick Kokonas’ co-owned restaurant Alinea, carries on in his adventure. Alinea is an elitarian three Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago and the name itself is symbolic of Achatz’s goal to constantly change and upend expectations. It means “the beginning of a new train of thought”. Dishes are served on rolled-out pieces of cloth rather than plates. All the assumptions that clients have when entering a restaurant, collapse upon entering here.
Cooking can be beneficial not only for clients’ taste but also for every other human sense, just like art. Indeed, experiential cuisine has been taking place starting from a single concept: everything we see is relative and becomes something completely different. Customers must be welcomed and amazed: they have to remember this experience as when they are in front of a painting and if they remain impressed, they will carry this memory with them forever.
Achaz wants the guests to have a sense of wonderment when they have a look at his menu. The restaurateurs operating in this sector look for what is the “aha” moment in their customers. Their satisfaction is not mere clients’ satiety, but the amazement they can arouse in them.
Ultimately, making people live a culinary experience is a sensorial and evasive change towards a universe, an identity, a territory that you want to live and discover and this could be the perfect moment to deepen these experiences!
By Arianna Moricca