Hacking flavour perception II design, technology, & gastrophysics

On Monday we left London on the 7:10am on a Oxford Tube bus to Somerville College at Oxford University. The line up promised great things – and it definitely delivered. Because we gathered SO MUCH information, we thought it would be best to break down the content into various posts that will feature over the next couple of months. That way we can go into more juicy detail. Until then, we wanted to leave you with the information provided to us by Oxford University. Enjoy!


Event Description:

While enjoying a meal, our brain continuously combines information about what is detected by the tongue with what we smell, not to mention the expectations set by what we see, hear, and feel. Traditionally, researchers thought that the sensory cues that combine to deliver flavour all originated from the food and drink itself. Nowadays, though, chefs, culinary artists, experience designers, and researchers working in technology are increasingly starting to hack our experiences of flavour (hacking the food; hacking the context in which that food is presented; and hacking the senses of the person consuming it): Everything from sonically seasoning your food through to augmented and virtual reality dining experiences. This workshop brings together practitioners and researchers from a number of different fields in order to investigate how our understanding of multi sensory flavor perception (of flavour objects) is being challenged and extended. Hopefully, you will not only get to hear, but also to taste, some of the latest insights and innovations in this fast-moving area.


10:10 Prof. Charles Spence (University of Oxford)

Opening remarks: Hacking flavour perception

10:30 Prof. Katsunori Okajima (Yokohama National University, Japan)

Augmented Reality (AR) & Projection Mapping Food and Drink: Enhancing the Experience with Technology

11:15 Dr. Sebastian Ahnert (University of Cambridge)

The flavour network

13:00 Steve Keller (iV audio branding, Nashville, Tennessee)

Sonic Seasoning: Designing crossmodally congruent soundscapes that tickle your ears and your taste buds

13:30 Dr. Vaiva Kalnikaitė (Nu Food, Cambridge)

The shape of taste to come

13:55 Chef Jesse Dunford Wood (Parlor, London; http://parlourkensal.com)

Theatrical dining: Hacking the diner’s mind by playing with nostalgia and performance at the table

14:20 Demos 

Sarah Hyndman: Tasting typeface

Simon Spence: Bread – Can you taste the difference?

Vaiva Kalnikaitė & Tom Gayler: 3D food printing

Singh’s gin tasting

Kitchen Theory: Colourful jelly tasting

15:00 Prof. Francis McGlone (Liverpool John Moores University)

Brain’s go beyond physics: A notes & chords view of multisensory flavour perception


15:30 Prof. Charles Spence (University of Oxford)

Gastrophysics: Measuring the impact of design & technology on multisensory flavour experiences

16:00 Chef Jozef Youssef (Kitchen Theory, London; https://www.kitchen-theory.com)

Gastrophysics: Putting theory into practice– Does the science constrain or promote creativity in the kitchen?


Hacking Flavour Perception: Art, Design, Technology, & Gastrophysics


Prof. Katsunori Okajima (Yokohama National University, Japan)

Food appearance and the environment are critical factors that affect the feeling of the deliciousness of the dishes. However, the effects of food appearance have been unclear because it is difficult to prepare the same foods with different appearances. Therefore, we developed an Augmented Reality (AR) system with a Head-Mounted Display (HMD) that can modify the texture and/or the color of food and drink in real time and keeping the food intact. We conducted a series of experiments designed to investigate how the visual texture and appearance of food and drink influences taste and flavor perceptions. The results demonstrated that people’s perception of food can be modulated by changing the color or the texture of the visual image. Moreover, we developed another Augmented-Reality (AR) system that can modify the appearance of the food and the dish by projecting an artificial image on the food and the dish in real-time. The image of a moving food on a dish was captured with a camera, and a digital projector projected a texture image on the actual food. Results of the subjective experiment showed that the sweetness is significantly modified by controlling just only saturation of the food color without changing the food itself, suggesting that the projective-AR system must be useful for controlling diet and for designing food appearance. Finally, I will introduce a novel modification method of food appearance by using image filters based on the human visual mechanism. This method allows us to control freshness, transparency and doneness etc. of the food naturally and arbitrarily.

[Acknowledgment: This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number JP15H05926]


Dr. Sebastian Ahnert (University of Cambridge)

The cultural diversity of culinary practice, as illustrated by the variety of regional cuisines, raises the question of whether there are any general patterns that determine the ingredient combinations used in food today or principles that transcend individual tastes and recipes. We introduce a flavour network that captures the flavour compounds shared by culinary ingredients. Western cuisines show a tendency to use ingredient pairs that share many flavour compounds, supporting the so-called food-pairing hypothesis. By contrast, East Asian cuisines tend to avoid compound sharing ingredients. Given the increasing availability of information on food preparation, our data-driven investigation opens new avenues towards a systematic understanding of culinary practice. Leading on from this we discuss a variety of further datasets on food ingredients and flavour compounds, including chef-curated flavour pairings, aroma compound concentrations, olfactory detection thresholds, and olfactory receptor responses, and illustrate how these datasets can be combined using large-scale data analysis in order to provide a deeper understanding of the impact that shared aroma compounds can have on perceived ingredient compatibility.


Steve Keller (iV audio branding, Nashville, Tennessee)

Over the past few years, research into crossmodal relationships (or correspondences) between sound and taste has opened the door to exciting new applications of sound in the culinary arts. From gastrophysics and Sensploration to sonic seasonings and flavour DJs, Steve Keller explores the theory and practice of eating with our ears.


Dr. Vaiva Kalnikaitė (Nu Food, Cambridge)

We are amazing at building things out of solid materials, but we are not so comfortable with making things out of liquids. Yet we are surrounded by living things which can be more than 60% liquid. In this presentation, I’ll explore how to design and build robots that can help us manipulate liquid and use it to make shapes and add texture and flavour to accessorize our food and drink experiences. I will also explore the design of digital utensils to better suit the properties of liquids when served as part of dining.


Chef Jesse Dunford Wood (Parlor, London; http://parlourkensal.com)

Jesse will talk about ‘The fun factor’ when entertaining at meal times, and the underrated value of performance, humor, surprise, and intrigue at the dinner table.


Prof. Francis McGlone (Liverpool John Moores University)

In the early 1900’s a psychologist by the name of I. M. Bentley carried out a series of ‘touch blend’ experiments in which he demonstrated that brains go beyond physics when it comes to the skin senses. The recognition that perception is often an illusion will be developed further when it comes to oral sensory processing where it will be shown that understanding the full physical and chemical properties of a sensory stimulus can often tell you nothing about how such matter will be dealt with by the brain i.e. how it will ‘taste’. Perhaps why cooking is an art rather than a science …….until now…..


Prof. Charles Spence (University of Oxford)

PART ONE: Back in 2011, philosopher Peter Ludlow suggested that modernist cuisine could be seen as a form of ‘food hacking’. Of course, long before molecular gastronomy / modernist cuisine, the Italian Futurists were suggesting a number of intriguing ways in which to play with multisensory dining experiences. This workshop will explore some of the ways in which designers and those working with the latest in technology are increasingly starting to hack our food and drink experiences. While it may not yet be possible to turn water into wine (by hacking the flavour experience), culinary artists, chefs, designers, technologists, and scientists (gastrophysicists) are becoming ever-more successful in their attempts at modifying our food experiences – be it to deliver more stimulating, more memorable, more sustainable, and/or healthier food and beverage experiences. In this workshop, we are lucky to have been able to bring together a number of those working at the forefront of technological development, design, and culinary artistry to share their enthusiasm, experiences, and learnings in this area.

PART TWO: In this talk, I will review a number of the most exciting examples of food hacking that have not been discussed previously during the day. I will also highlight how the gastrophysics approach, combining gastronomy and psychophysics, is increasingly helping chefs and other culinary experience designers to make better evidence-based decisions around the optimal design of food and beverage experiences.


Chef Jozef Youssef (Kitchen Theory, London; https://www.kitchen-theory.com)

Kitchen Theory has dedicated its efforts towards using the emerging science of gastrophysics as the main focus of our research and inspiration behind our multisensory dining experiences. This talk will highlight a number of dishes which have been developed based on scientific research and executed by collaborating with various partners and engaging the use of new technologies to create immersive, memorable, and delicious multisensory tasting journeys for our guests at The Gastrophysics Chef’s Table in London. I will share the way in which we use gastrophysics to help nudge our guests toward an appreciation of more sustainable sources of food.

All content was provided by Oxford University

CAKE II What you won’t find by typing ‘cake’ into google

We’ve put a little edit together of some of the best and most original cakes and the designers behind them. This should give you inspiration for birthdays, wedding, and your dinner parties.

SUGAR FLOWER POWER : Rosalind Miller Cakes 

Rosalind Miller Cakes was founded when Rosalind, a lecturer in Design at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design applied her artistic skills to cake design. Rosalind’s cakes have earned a reputation for not only being utterly unique, but also continually at the forefront of wedding trends, and her unparalleled wedding cake designs have won her the title of ‘Best Wedding Cake Designer’ at The Wedding Industry Awards in 2012 and 2013 (for which she is now a judge in the same category).


@rosalindmillercakes: Ivory Cascade, Rose Ombre (11 tier wedding cake, 6 tiers with 5 separators for extra height)


Lily Jones (aka) Vanilli is a baker and bespoke cake designer based in East London.

She is the author of two recipe books and co-founder of the YBF Awards. She has a bakery on London’s Columbia Road and consults for bakeries and brands around the world.


@lily_vanilli_cake: Bespoke Cake Design

WHAT A SPREAD : The Curious Confectioner 

With an emphasis on research and education, the work of David Bradley aka The Curious Confectioner is known for its playful approach to the curious and exploratory. Inhabiting the role of artist, designer, gastronome and educator, The Curious Confectioner produces considered works born from a convergence of interests under multiple hats.


Candyland (250cm x 120cm x 90 cm), The Cornucopian Garden (100cm x 100cm x 140cm)

SCULPTURAL : Michelle Sugar Art 

Michelle Wibowo is the founder of Michelle Sugar Art Ltd, Michelle is a world-renowned sugar artist and cake sculptor with incredible attention to details and realism.



@michellesugarart: Realistic Baby Cake : english fruit cake, marzipan, sugar paste


Connie Viney is known for her outlandish and larger than life sculptures and installations made from cake and icing.


@connieviney: 8ft Walk in Wedding Cake


Bompas & Parr is globally recognised as the leading expert in multi-sensory experience design.


@bompasandparr : Jelly with Bompas & Parr, Neon Jelly Chamber

(Edible Stories created this edit, but all images and designer descriptions are from their personal websites)

Sechuan Buttons II Taste Tingling Foreplay

What is a Sechuan Button or Acmella Oleracea: (source Wikipedia)

It is a species of flowering herb in the family Asteraceae. The flower bud has a grassy taste followed by a strong tingling or numbing sensation and often excessive salivation, with a cooling sensation in the throat.

How we applied this ingredient into an event, and a little more about that event:

We have hosted a couple 50 Shades of Grey events for private and corporate clients and so wanted to create something that was playful, tasteful but still had a little bit of a naughty side. So instead we created a menu and dining experience which would explore the senses and how we could manipulate them to create certain sensations.




Safe word: Scallop carpaccio marinated in lemon and soya, topped with sechuan buds, lime espuma & black sesame crunch

SOUND (sound) : The sensation produced by vibrations. Guests will be blindfolded and served their first course. An audio instructions will be given, the voice is seductive but firm, allowing guests to become submissive.

Lick me dry: pallet cleanser (guests will have their hands tied and be instructed to lick the liquid off the plate)

TASTE (test) : The impression of food on the tongue. The first course will evoke a journey of the senses. Allowing your lips, tongue, teeth, and throat to taste each texture and flavour individually.

The Christian Grey: Fillet of beef topped with truffle shards, accompanied with a nori powdered cauliflower puree

SIGHT (sahyt) : The perception of what lies in front of us. Blindfolds will be removed, enabling guests to discover interactive elements on the table : touch me, taste me, drink me, use me, open me.

Pleasure and pain: Frozen grapes, disguised chili strawberry, amaretto spiked cream, contrasting ice cubes, poached chocolate centered pear served with a paintbrush and instruction to take control.


Additional senses that we played with during the evening:

SMELL (smel) : To perception of a scent. Certain aromas will be diffused in the room throughout the evening in order to enhance the dining experience.

TOUCH (tuhch) : To be in contact with. Throughout the evening guests will be blindfolded, silk rope cuffed, and caressed. They will have the opportunity to interact with each other and their surroundings. And who knows, maybe even take control.

POP UP REVIEW II We tried Syria’s favourite dishes with a refugee in London

by Chloé Morris and Daniel Breger for gastroINSIDER

It was a night of contrasts; of joy and pain, war and love, indulgence and sacrifice, new lives and the ones left behind. And baklava. It was undisputedly a night of baklava.

In a bare-bricked loft somewhere off the backstreets of Bethnal Green, we gorged ourselves on overflowing plates of incredible Middle-Eastern food.  At the centre of it all, Imad Alanab – a Syrian chef who was forced to flee his homeland and yet manages to wear an eternal smile; far from the country he loves but somehow transported back there, hunched over a stove, enveloped in a haze of familiar smoke and smells.  This is Imad’s Kitchen, this is – for that moment at least – home.

We ate family style, squeezed together, knees touching, elbows knocking, but nobody minded; it only made it easier to reach across for dishes that would otherwise have been out of our grasp. We started with a festival of meze dishes – the obligatoryhumous, falafel and pita bread; tabouleh; a smoky aubergine moutabal; and a crisp fattoush salad (a mixture of tomatoes, onion and cucumber punctuated with pomegranate pearls and thin shards of fried bread). The real star here though was the stuffed vine leaves – soaked and spiced grape leaves wrapped around balls of rice. They were soft, sticky, bittersweet and delicious.

Before we began the meal Imad welcomed us, urging us to “eat, eat, eat and enjoy!” We clamoured to hear more of his story – how had he arrived at this place? What did he feel? What had he seen? How could we help? – however, Imad clearly wanted to keep this, his opening night, an occasion of happiness and celebration. But as with so many refugees – Syrian and others the world over – there is no escaping the terrible sadness of their stories. Thankfully, there is often also hope. In Imad’s case, the restaurants and juice bars he owned in Damascus were destroyed in the country’s civil war. He fled and, after a journey that took him through Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and France, arrived in London in October 2015, eventually bringing over his young family, including three daughters aged six, 10 and 13. He sought refugee status and became an advisor to Unicef campaign #CookForSyria and now hopes that this pop-up (supported by NextGen, AppearHere, Hampstead Kitchen, Cook For Syria, Kasimira Party Organisers) will allow him to rebuild his business in the UK

Judging by the empty plates, it won’t take him long to achieve that goal. We wolfed down the starters and licked our lips as platefuls of kebab hindi (Syrian meatball stew), kabsa (gently spiced chicken with cardoman, rice, and crispy onions) andtabakh roho (vegetable and tamarind stew) wafted under our noses, onto the table, and into our bellies.

We were full to bursting. Sated, satisfied and blissfully happy. Not a morsel more could pass our lips. And then the baklava arrived. From the outside, the syrup-soaked parcels looked like all the other baklava we had seen before. Sugary and inviting sure, but nothing to suggest that eating them would be a transcendent experience; with pastry that melted on the tongue, leaving nothing but rosewater flecked upon our lips. Put simply, they were happiness manifested as baked goods. Go, eat them. Now. Your mouth will thank you. And so will Imad.

(Photos: Cook for Syria)