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The Perfect Meal: The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining

Around 4 years ago while looking for avenues to quench my insatiable thirst for gastronomic knowledge I was advised by professor Herve This to look up the London Gastronomy Seminars, which had been established by a former college of his Rachel Edwards-Stuart. So that is exactly what I did, luckily they were just about to hold a talk on ‘Multi-sensory Flavour Perception‘ – it wasn’t a topic directly related to the kitchen but it sounded interesting nonetheless, so I went along to find out more – little did I know at the time but this would turn out to be a very influential experience.

One of the speakers was Professor Charles Spence whom I was fortunate enough to meet after the talk. I arranged to visit his lab in Oxford and began researching and reading as much as I could on this topic. From this point onward I was converted to the notion that the experience of dining is only partially made up by the food itself, and that there are a whole host of other factors which contribute to our perception of flavour and memories of a dining experience. Over the following years I followed the professor’s work keenly and he has even become a Kitchen Theory Advising Director.

So when he asked me to contribute and write a small forward for his upcoming book ‘The Perfect Meal: The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining’ I was honored to do so.

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The Perfect Meal: The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining by Charles Spence & Betina Piqueras-Fiszman

For the last two decades the culinary world has been obsessed with modernist cooking and the role science can play in the kitchen. Nowadays more and more chefs are realising that science also has a place at the table; that a dining experience is made up of far more than just good food and that by understanding how we use our senses to interact with and appreciate food we may be able to further enhance our guest’s dining experience. This book by Professor Charles Spence and Betina Piqueras-Fiszman (both from Oxford University’s Cross Modal – Experimental Psychology Department) looks at many topics which will become increasingly relevant to both chefs and society as a whole in the coming years.

The Perfect Meal examines all of the elements that contribute to the diner’s experience of a meal (primarily at a restaurant) and investigate how each of the diner’s senses contributes to their overall multisensory experience. The principal focus of the book is not on flavor perception, but on all of the non-food and beverage factors that have been shown to influence the diner’s overall experience.

Examples are:

  • the colour of the plate (visual)
  • the shape of the glass (visual/tactile)
  • the names used to describe the dishes (cognitive)
  • the background music playing inside the restaurant (aural)

Novel approaches to understanding the diner’s experience in the restaurant setting are explored from the perspectives of decision neuroscience, marketing, design, and psychology.

Order the book from Amazon now.

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