#FOURNews | Do people need a story behind their meal in order to enjoy it?

01 Sep 2015
2 min read
Hong Kong-based research asked whether the personality of a chef can affect your dining experience and change the perceived quality of a dish.
‘Future for food’

CatchOn, a Hong Kong-based strategic consultancy specialising in hospitality, has been conducting an on going exploration into the ‘future of food’ to ask whether factors such as the chef’s personality, dish presentation and introduction, and food provenance can all be used as marketing tools to curry favour with their diners.

In a world that is not only very food obsessed, but also centred around interaction and the ‘personal touch’, it seems that consumers can be very easily swayed into believing that quality is defined by what is currently perceived as a ‘complete’ gastronomic experience.

For example, CatchOn hosted a dinner in Wanchai at restaurant, Serge et le Phoque, a name and reputation that seemingly suggests high quality dining. They invited 48 diners to join them under the pretext of taking part in a taste test to help refine a dish. The dish of choice was a saffron risotto with liquorice and lime, made in two parts to try and establish a favourite version. One version was made using a homemade stock of high quality ingredients and produced a rich risotto full of flavour. It was served with a simple recipe card that listed the ingredients and offered a no frills approach to a well-rounded dish. The second version wasthe same dish but in contrast, used a mix of vegetable stock powder diluted with tap water and standard ingredients. This dish was however, personally introduced by the chef who explained the story behind the recipe and where each ingredient had been carefully sourced.

No surprises for guessing which wasthe preferred dish…of course it was the latter!

Both versions were rated in terms of quality, overall taste, aesthetics, smell, and portion size with a significant majority of 77% preferring the second version, and marking it as the higher rated dish for most of the different categories. Interestingly, the second version with its elaborate story and ‘personal touch’ was also deemed as being larger when rated on portion size, even though both versions were the same quantity.Speaking to CatchOn’s director of strategy, Virginia Ngai, she states that;

“There was a time when a chef spoke only through what was served on the plate…It’s hard to imagine legendary chefs from Fernand Point to contemporaries like Marco Pierre White having to charm diners into embracing their food. But this the reality of what it takes for chefs to be successful today.”

The results clearly show that chef’s personality, or a personal approach to the food,does indeed play a role in elevating the perceived gastronomic experience.It could be that a future in food involves not only just producing food, but like Virginia suggests, chefs have to be “equal parts scientist, artist and storyteller to stand out.” It seems that simply hiding behind your plate of good food no longer works in today’s hyper exposed world, now people want to get to know the person behind the creation in order to enjoy what they are eating.

Find out more information about the CatchOn project here