Welcome to Tech Tuesday, a weekly column featuring different aspects of food and technology. Come back each week for product reviews, lists of our favorite gadgets, and in-depth looks at how technology is changing how and what we eat.
What will food look like in the future?
If you ask me, I imagine people eating efficiently and for means of survival. Breakfast will fly out of the fridge with the push of a button a la The Jetsons, lunch will come in on-the-go freeze-dried meal packets, and dinner will be similar to Willy Wonka’s three-course gum — where dessert is a calorie-free aftertaste of blueberry pie.
But if you ask Chef Paco Roncero the same question, you will get a far less cynical answer.
Roncero, who has two Michelin stars to his name, opened a 15-course gastro show called Sublimotion inside the Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza, Spain, last year. The multi-sensory concept takes place in one high-tech room with a table for 12 and is truly a one-of-a-kind dining experience. The meal, which costs a whopping $1,900 per person, uses art, gastronomy, and technology to transport diners to unique settings — including a jump to the year 2050.
Unlike my vision for future food consumption, Roncero’s course from the future is interactive, savory, and meant to be enjoyed with others. It’s also his favorite of the night and it’s easy to see why. With the use of augmented reality and wearable technology, “guests get a glimpse of what dining experiences might be available in the future,” he explains.
A woman gets ready to enjoy her virtual reality-enhanced meal. (Photo: Sublimotion)
Here’s how the virtual reality part of the meal works.
Halfway through dinner, waiters hand-deliver personal Samsung Gear VR specs to the diners. With a 96-degree viewing angle, the smartphone-operated goggles are there to create an immersive experience for the diners as they prepare to eat a course inspired by two different cuisines, Japan and Peru.
Once wearing the specs, guests see a white box before them. The box is split into two compartments, labeled “1” and “2.” They are told to open the first box and focus their eyes on the label.
A dish inspired by Japan: Milk mousse infused in nori seaweed. Thin sliced tuna sashimi brushed with ham grease and other ingredients, such as purple shiso, wasabi leaves, and salicornia. (Photo: Sublimotion)
Thanks to the obtrusive goggles, diners have no real-life peripheral vision. So when the waiters fill the first box with tuna sashimi in milk mousse infused with nori seaweed, it’s as if it magically appears.
The goggles then scan the food for an invisible code that has been embedded into an edible wafer. “The nutritional values as well as the entire elaboration process floats mid-air,” says Roncero about the real-time display that reflects on the specs. (Think: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s glasses in The Terminator.) A video recipe appears and disappears with each bite. The steps are then repeated for box no. 2, which consists of sea bass tiradito in tiger’s milk.
If it sounds like sensory overload, that’s exactly what Roncero intended: “We play with emotions, the senses, the set, the aromas, and the taste.”
Chefs are busy at work in Sublimotion’s kitchen. (Photo: Sublimotion)
The innovative chef first noticed this curiosity in how food connects all five senses while at his culinary workshop at the Casino de Madrid in 2012. “We offered diners the chance to enter into an imagination laboratory where the latest advancements in gastronomy, cinema, and technology fused together to create a unique experience,” he says. The result of his experiment led them to Ibiza and the creation of Sublimotion.
With its high season and influx of travelers in summer, Ibiza is the perfect locale for this extravagant experience. Roncero and his team are able to use the winter to prep, thanks to practically sold-out nightly seatings from June through September. “Ibiza is a magical island — it’s passionate and lively with an audience open to new experiences,” he says. “We try several new things that will be included in next year’s menu, like playing with seasonal products. We want to make sure that every single dish served is astonishing.”
After guests finish their meal from 2050, they embark on a five-minute journey with the specs. They are instructed to spin around in their chairs and enjoy 360-degree views from spectacular heights that were filmed across the world. “The complete immersion of the diner in this new kind of format means that they are able to enjoy the thousands of carefully created experiences which take place during the event,” says Roncero. “If we think about the ritual of dining, perhaps in 50 years-time, there will probably be many elements similar to what takes place here.”
Something tells me he might be onto something.