Posted at April 15, 2022, 06:02
Pizza with thin slices of raw tuna, shiso, aioli and truffle, or plump tacos with bulgogi sauce… In the understated dining room of the new restaurant Akira Backnestled in the heart of the five star hotel Prince of Wales in Paris, aesthetic dishes follow each other to the rhythm of a minimalist electronic framework. Ambient house music, interspersed with melodic vocals and eclectic samples. The DJ listens to the arrival of customers, weighs moods, adjusts with his fingertips to the joys of reunions with friends and the more solemn discussions of a business meal. Here the ballet of plates goes hand in hand with an ambitious sound score, a marriage in sight in the small catering world.
When we ask him about this daring deal – the meeting between a thunderous background noise and the strict clientele of the Parisian Golden Triangle – Gérald Krischek, general manager of the establishment, answers with amusement: “Everything is impossible until someone does it. If you touch all the senses, you win. We used to say ‘F&B’ for ‘Food and drink’. We are now talking about ‘Food and Drink and Entertainment’. Thirty years ago, hotel restaurants worked well, we respected the codes of the classic. Opposite tables, festive and modern, are open outside. They are sold out, which cannot always be said of ours, which, however, make a living from external customers and serve as a shop window. † It’s 9pm, customers come in waves. All ages, all categories: “This restaurant is an excellent lever, it reinforces our avant-garde positioning. If customers like it, they come back for the bar or the terrace. † Pure and hard marketing to differentiate yourself, arouse desire and build loyalty, with the desire to satisfy the curious, longing for wild environments.
The playlist adapted to the kitchen
Ten minutes away, the same goes for the Museum of Modern Art, where Chef Maestro Julien Sebbag and Artistic Director Dorion play the acrobats in their immersive sanctuary. Forest, reference to The Cure. The two men took advantage of the confinement to sink into the forest of Fontainebleau and ponder the meaning of the word “eatery”. Upon arrival, their musical universe is a spicy mix between new wave pop-rock and synths à la Mort Garson, a Canadian composer who grew plants on the sound of electro.
† His track ‘Plantasia’ inspired a playlist I called ‘Tendre Forest’, traces of Dorion. There are 70s synths, psychedelic and mystical, tender and candid. Evenings without a DJ we spend on oriental things. † He admits that they had to adjust between fantasy and reality by observing the tables. Julien Sebbag confirms: “It’s up to us to coordinate. It is unconscious to decorate kitchen and atmosphere. Customers are looking for a holistic experience. † A move he says was sparked by tables like that of Israeli chef Eyal Shani, who heads Miznon. Gérald Krischek speaks, for his part, “progressive concepts already seen in other cities around the world, but less so in Parisian palaces”†
All three agree that the environment influences our feelings about the food we eat and the pleasure we get from it. Charles Spence, psychologist at the University of Oxford and author of the study Role of auditory cues in modulating the perceived crispness and staleness of chips (2014), valid across the Channel: “Everything from the weight of the cutlery to the background music matters. Gastrophysics, an amalgamation of ‘gastronomy’ and ‘psychophysics’, illustrates the importance of factors extrinsic to food for the total experience. † In his book gas physicstranslated in 2020, the professor suggests a natural evolution of molecular gastronomy towards “what could be the science of the mind of the eater”† When asked, he adds: “It is in the head, not in the mouth, that the sight, sound, smell, taste and texture of food combine with mood and emotion to create the culinary moments we love. †
He gives the example of the Campo Viejo Color Lab in London, in 2014, “the largest experimental wine tasting event” † “We have shown that red lights make red wine in a black glass 15% sweeter, while green lights provide freshness and acidity.” For him, good place designers rely on this new knowledge to turn the dishes into unforgettable multi-sensory pleasure: “Sound spice refers to a new scientific understanding that we can use soundscapes to flavor food. We study the tonal properties of a piece to bring out sweetness, bitterness, creaminess, spiciness, saltiness, and even sourness.”
Champion in this area, Paul Pairet, three-star and jury of “Top Chef” on M6, has his restaurant Ultraviolet, in Shanghai, a culinary destination. The one-man band, a sound and light choreography that unites the senses of ten guests around twenty dishes. “We don’t entertain them, we create atmospheres that force them to concentrate more. † It confirms the importance of “psychological taste”by “conditioning” “I define taste as the difference between the idea we have and the moment we ingest it. † Paul Pairet realized that he needed constant sound to hold the attention of his table. “The sound is extremely penetrating, the sound extraordinaryhe rejoices. We couldn’t live without ‘Ultraviolet’. The food may be enough on its own, but all atmospheres are parasitic if not tailored to the dishes. † Everywhere, these multisensory experiences, no matter how expensive, would almost become the norm. “You always have the impression that the fish tastes better when you eat it by the sea”the cook jokes. “Customers are willing to pay the price for what we will define as the beauty of a memory. †
For Charles Spence, pragmatism, volume and tempo serve not only as decoration: “People drink more when they listen to fast, loud music because they are less detectable for alcohol. The hospitality industry knows this, which partly explains why it is becoming increasingly noisy in establishments. In the UK and North America, the level can exceed 100 dB, which is enough to cause hearing damage and increase sales by 33%. † What’s next? “I think there will be an increasing and ubiquitous integration of digital technology at the table”, he said. It is up to Dorion to conclude: “We are always in a stage of the future, it is the essence of evolution. †
What to remember
To differentiate themselves from competitors and build customer loyalty, some restaurants adopt a strong, solid identity.
Studies have shown that the pleasure of tasting involves all the senses, including hearing, which is said to enhance the organoleptic properties of food.
Restorers imagine their dishes together with the sound environment of their establishment to provide multisensory entertainment.