by Salvatore PelusoNov 17, 2021
A common response to the inability to host physical festivals has been to create online viewing rooms and host panel discussions. As an immediate answer, digital panel discussions brought in a new audience. While this was an appropriate response, it is also a singular adaptation. As the global restrictions in wake of the pandemic continue, a sense of panel fatigue has set in. The Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, faced a similar conundrum when a decision was made to host their 2020 programme online. However, one of the events associated with the festival may cause us to rethink how we look at digital design-led content. Hungry for Design is a six-episode web series that paired six local chefs and designers from the city of Eindhoven to encourage the two artistic fields to collaborate on their creative processes. Chefs were challenged to develop a dish based on the work of the designers.
There is something very sacred about dinner table conversations. From sharing our daily musings to catching up on the mundane, conversations over a meal are a cherished practice. The series takes the idea of this everyday moment to bring to the table a discussion on design from multiple disciplines. Marlou van Doorne, who initiated the idea of the series, elaborates on the concept saying, “In Eindhoven, we are known for our high-tech ecosystem and as the city of design. With both the Design Academy Eindhoven and University of Technology located here, the city has a very diverse network of designers who practice here. And on a culinary level, the city is just as diverse. What we wanted to do with the series was bringing together these two disciplines. One of our beliefs is that when you combine disciplines you allow innovation”. The series presents an interesting new mode to discuss design, a far more dynamic presentation with various modes of interaction.
Hosted by Annelies Hermsen, a food designer herself, each episode starts with her and brings two artistic practices to a table. The format also draws an interesting parallel to conversations one would have at the end of the day around the dinner table at home. While the dialogue is far from casual musing, it does change the context of discussion from desk to table. In 2020 one would be hard-pressed to look at any design intervention involving food and not be reminded of the surplus of cooking shows one can binge-watch at any given time. The series balances the design discussion with interpretations of the culinary arts and visa-versa. Hermsen elaborated, “With the television cooking shows, it has a lot to do with how it looks, and its aesthetics. The designers bring another ingredient to the table, like in-depth research, and that adds another level of value.” Each designer comes to the table with a totem of their practice. These objects acted as an anchor to the table discussion. Each episode begins with the designers explaining specific aspects of their work. We then get to hear how each chef incorporates these ideas into their culinary presentations.
With the television cooking shows it has a lot to do with how it looks and its aesthetics. The designers bring another ingredient to the table, like in depth research and that adds another level of value. – Annelies Hermsen
As the conversation moves from the table to the counter, many chefs emphasise the importance of sourcing their ingredients locally and consciously. The first episode begins with Raoul Vleugels and Mark Leenders. Vleugels has an architectural practice that focuses on sustainable building materials and methodologies, while Leenders is a chef at bar and restaurant Vestdijk 47. One of Leenders' ingredients is the honey that he has extracted from a hive that is being groomed on the roof of his restaurant.
The episode featuring Lonny van Ryswyck and Cas Pikaar is particularly interesting. Ryswyck is the co-founder of Atelier NL, a design studio that develops everyday objects that show the richness of the earth and its raw materials, such as sand and clay. Pikaar is the recipient of the January 2020 Michelin Young Chef Award and the chef at Doyy. Pikaar chooses to cook part of the meal in an earthen kiln as an ode to Ryswyck's earthworks. The series explores a multitude of inspirations. In the case of Dick Middelweerd, head chef and owner of two Michelin star restaurant De Treeswijkhoeve and Lotte de Raadt, a designer and ceramist, the connection is water.
Another episode features Sanne Schuurman and Naresh Ramdjas. Schuurman is one of the co-founders of Envisions, a collective of 23 designers from within the city of Eindhoven, which engages with material research. Ramdjas, a designer by education, was a finalist for MasterChef Holland. The conversation was directed towards the material quality of design and food, texture, sustainability and colour, with Ramdas observing that edible materials are much easier to design with, than building material.
Musician and sound designer, Ricky van Broekhoven, was paired with Eveline Wu. Wu’s interpretation attempts to capture Broekhoven experiments in making sound visible. One of the most fascinating collaborations, however, is between Renee Scheepers - a design researcher, and Taks Yuen - the owner of Chinese restaurant Mei Wah in Eindhoven. Scheepers’ work looks to find answers to social issues through research and data collection. As a design practice that does not necessarily have physical design output, Yuen's interpretation is fascinating. He looks at design research as a parallel to comfort food, combining it with his own heritage.
The series can be watched here. The makers have also released the recipes online in the hope that nothing thwarts creativity and togetherness in sharing food at a time when dining at restaurants is restricted and unadvisable.