What Makes a Memorable Meal?
Research
What Makes a Memorable Meal? Neuro-Cuisine Introduces Sensory Seasoning

Fantastic food in a great atmosphere has always been a given when putting together a memorable meal. The right lighting and music is something that all the best chefs know is a must for creating an eating establishment that people love to dine in, but it’s only in recent years that more in-depth studies have revealed just how these aspects can alter our experience and interaction with food, along with many other variables – some of which might not be so obvious.

Across a series of blogs, we are going to delve into the intricate workings of how outside factors such as sound, touch and sight affect the palette and what you can do to ensure that your surroundings are enhancing every bite taken, rather than taking away from it.

To begin, in today’s blog we’re going to explore the details behind Neuro-Cuisine: the science of flavour.

The Science Behind Taste Perception

The results are in: we all have synaesthesia. When it comes to taste, that is. Through a contemporary form of research into his own passion, ‘Gastrophysics’, experimental professor Charles Spence has carved the way for a new food revolution. With fresh insight into just how all of the senses interact during the process of eating, we now know that when it comes to flavour perception shapes, textures, colours, sounds and smell all play an integral role, meaning that to get the most out of your food, the experience must be considered as a whole.

We’ve all got a special memory of a time in our lives or a place that we love that ties in with food and likewise, we all have aversions too! There’s no doubt that food and nostalgia go hand in hand, but this is down to so much more than our brains recalling taste alone. The experience begins well before taking that first bite. The anticipation of a good meal; the choice of cutlery; the buzzing sounds, energy and neon lighting of a super-cool urban London eatery or the rituals, traditions and Zen-like calm of a hidden away gem in the back streets of Kyoto. All of our senses become entwined when it comes to food, resulting in a positive or negative association with the experience altogether.

Sensory Seasoning

You may have heard that 80% of flavour comes down to smell, and whilst this is not strictly true (as it is not really possible to quantify a precise percentage), it certainly is a fact that the human olfactory system – the part of the sensory system used for smelling – is actually more influential than the taste our tongues are able to pick up and this is true for all of the senses. Our taste-buds actually have a relatively limited role in tasting, only picking up the basics of sweet, sour, savoury (Unami), salt and bitter without all the subtle nuances that really make a meal.

This has led culinary wizards to the trend that is ‘sensory seasoning’ - using this knowledge to enhance and alter the flavour of food without so much as tweaking an actual recipe. From using red lighting, round shaped food and high-pitched music to heighten sweetness to holding silk or velvet in the hand to bring out creamier flavour perceptions and rough textures for salty or bitter flavours, treating cooking and dining as a multi-sensual art makes perfect sense.

Studio William Cutlery: A Solid Base for Neuro-Cuisine

A study by Charles Michel, Carlos Velasco and Charles Spence published in Flavour Journal revealed that alongside unassuming factors such as the colour of the plate used and the positioning of the food itself, the quality of the cutlery used to eat with drastically modulates the enjoyment of food too.

In the study, the material the cutlery was made out of demonstrated an impressive impact on the diner’s perception of different flavours, both good and bad! The weight and overall feel of the cutlery in the hand led the diner to perceive their food as higher or lower quality through a phenomenon known as ‘sensation transference’, to the extent that those who used ‘banquet cutlery’ over ‘canteen cutlery’ stated that they would be willing to pay more for the same food when eaten with higher quality utensils.

It is hypothesised that the heavier weight of high-quality cutlery, such as our single piece stainless steel ranges, captures the attention of the diner so much so that it heightens the awareness of the sensory properties of food, making cutlery the base from which all other sensory factors can stem from and flourish.

When developing Studio William cutlery, we bear all of these neuro-cuisine findings in mind and then create instruments that in their very essence make the process of eating a more pleasurable experience. In effect, adding the all-important food-extrinsic finishing touch to a gastro-sensation.