He thinks a fruitful area for study is to gain insights from the chefs who often intuitively have picked up on the various elements of what makes a great meal experience and then to try to study these aspects. He gives the example of a restaurant where you have to book two months in advance.
This is raising expectations. Then a month before the meal you get a note in the post, scented with a fragrance which you then experience as you enter the restaurant.
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Then, as you leave, you are given a bag of sweets, which you take home, extending the meal experience. What about cutlery? Does the weight in your hand make things taste better? Spence mentions and experiment that looked at this, with diners in the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh.
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He gives the example of Denis Martin in the Valais, whose restaurant has 2 Michelin stars. How does he solve this? Nothing happens until someone picks the cow up and it moos, and before long the restaurant is filled with the sounds of laughter and mooing cows. This breaks the atmosphere: a psychological palate cleanser, preparing people for the meal to come. A residence at the House of Wolf in Islington took this idea more midmarket, with theme music playing with each dish across the whole restaurant.
And this was taken further mass market by British Airways: customers on long haul can dial in on headset to music that matches the taste of their food. Spence notes that some high profile new restaurants have been multisensory. One of the strongest influence on flavour is visual. How food looks matters now more than ever, in the age of smartphones and sharing pictures of our dishes on social media. Then came nouvelle cuisine and things began to change.
The way a plate looks is a key element in our enjoyment, but does it make a difference with taste? Yes is the answer. This has been studied. Many chefs these days do asymmetric plating , but in studies people are willing to pay less and enjoy the food less than if the food is plated in a more symmetrical manner. Places like El Bulli and the Fat Duck are very exclusive, and few can afford to eat out like this on a regular basis. So what is the relevance?
The perfect meal : the multisensory science of food and dining
Spence thinks that what is going on in the best restaurants is like Formula One of the kitchen. Just as the technology of the leading race teams filters down to domestic cars, insights from the experimental kitchens will be applied to benefit us all, and will show up before too long on the high street.
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The colour of the plate matters. In one experiment, Ferran Adria took one of his desserts and served it to half on a white plate and half on a black one. Create Alert. Share This Paper. Citations Publications citing this paper. Multisensory Flavor Perception Charles Spence. Just how much of what we taste derives from the sense of smell? Charles Spence. Leading the consumer by the nose: on the commercialization of olfactory design for the food and beverage sector Charles Spence.
[PDF] The Perfect Meal: The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining - Semantic Scholar
On the psychological impact of food colour Charles Spence. Noise and its impact on the perception of food and drink Charles Spence. Odd versus even: a scientific study of the 'rules' of plating. References Publications referenced by this paper.