Curious Cuisine — Fostering Culinary Creativity at Home

Abstract

How might culinary science and data-driven technologies fuse with human intuition to encourage creative cooking? My approach has been to explore what behaviours such systems could possess, and what kind of inspiration the science of flavour could bring into everyday cooking.

The concept Curious Cuisine is a set of connected objects that work in unison to build up the cook’s confidence and provide guidance throughout the process. The Grocer is knowledgeable about pairing ingredients in a surprising way. The Chef is the master of cooking techniques beyond conventions. The Alchemist unlocks the “magic” of refining flavours to make the dish more exciting: the flavour compounds are Molecular taste extracts from natural ingredients in liquid or powder form.

Curious Cuisine creates a 'culinary safe zone' by encouraging experimentation, presenting information on demand, without overshadowing the cook's intuition. It allows hobby cooks to create their own unique dishes, to explore ingredient pairings, preparation techniques, and fine-tuning flavours.

Inspiration and Method

In this explorative interaction design research project, my aim was to find relevant opportunities for design intervention within our future relationships with making and eating food. I proposed a design inquiry into the possibilities of culinary science and emerging technologies in engaging people to make mindful choices about food.

Following up on the proposed design inquiry and the foundational readings, my primary research focused on generating insights about future food trends relevant to the adoption of emerging culinary science and technology in a home setting. This phase was a divergent exploration of food-related themes: skills, aesthetics and rituals.

To turn research insights into interaction design opportunities, I planned three consecutive ideation sprints, each with a different interest area as a starting point for a week of exploration.

I used sprints to explore the huge design space of culinary cience at home by breaking it up into smaller opportunities. I chose this format so that I could perform short, structured, high-pace and divergent ideations. This allowed me to constructively (instead of analytically) evaluate the potential of key insights, without prematurely converging towards one single topic, or getting lost in the abundance of options.

Result

The concept Curious Cuisine expands a hobby cook’s toolkit with knowledge on culinary experimentation: pairing ingredients, preparation techniques, and fine-tuning flavours. The concept manifests as an experiment kit, a set of three tangible devices connected to a cloud-based service; they work together in unison to present their know-how to the user, right in the kitchen. Each object has its bespoke intelligence and unique expertise about a different part of the cooking process. The Grocer is knowledgeable about pairing ingredients in a surprising way. The Chef is the master of cooking techniques beyond conventions. The Alchemist unlocks the magic of refining flavours to make the dish more exciting. With the gastronomy information that they draw, these devices create a ‘culinary safe zone’ for the hobby cook: the opportunity and confidence to experiment, without overshadowing the cook’s own intuition and preferences.

Curious Cuisine is a culinary experiment kit for people who already feel confident with the basics of cooking, are open to experimenting on special occasions, but may be in need of some inspiration and guidance to create their own unique and exciting dishes.