Food for thought

Merging modernist cooking techniques with newly emerging science, Kitchen Theory’s dining experiences offer a fascinating insight into the world of flavour

FOOD AND DRINK 8 JAN 2018

Forget molecular gastronomy: multisensory flavour perception is the new term that restaurants keen to keep ahead of the curve should be taking note of. Heralded by head chef and founder of Kitchen Theory, Jozef Youssef, and Oxford University’s head of crossmodal research, professor Charles Spence, the science behind this new dining concept is called gastrophysics and is based on research into what creates the flavours we experience when we eat and drink.

It turns out we are influenced by far more than just taste and smell. Spence’s research demonstrates that our perception of flavour is determined by a combination of multiple sensory observations made before and during eating that affect our expectations about the food in front of us. Everything, from what we can hear and the weight of the cutlery to the way food is arranged on the plate, has an impact on ‘taste’, and the end result is a sensation generated by all of our senses combined. ‘Basically, it all boils down to one idea: we don’t perceive flavour in the mouth, we perceive flavour in the brain,’ explains Youssef.

Youssef and Spence met in 2011 when, as a young chef climbing the ranks of London’s top restaurants including The Dorchester and Helèné Darroze at The Connaught, Youssef attended Spence’s talk on multisensory flavour perception. ‘I couldn’t believe more people in my industry weren’t talking about it and making it a focus point in their work,’ says Youssef.