This London restaurant is using 3D projection to bring food to life
In 2015, Belgian artists Filip Sterckx and Antoon Beeck, who work under the collective name Skullmapping, decided to take their building-scale projections to the dinner table. The result: a thumb-sized chef who rustles-up virtual steaks in front of your eyes. “The way it’s rendered from the 3D software makes it look 3D,” says Sterckx of the creation, which has been dubbed Le Petit Chef. “It’s an optical illusion – like those street paintings where it seems from one point of view that there’s a big hole in the ground.”
A YouTube video of the tabletop animation went viral, and has now been viewed more than six million times. One person who saw it was Nadine Beshir. With a background in the restaurant business, she saw an opportunity to combine food, technology and storytelling. The result is Dinner Time Story, a pop-up restaurant which launched in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and is now open for business in London.
The 90-minute show, Le Petit Chef – In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, takes diners on a Silk Road-inspired culinary tour with the tabletop chef as their guide. His journey is beamed onto the table using high-definition projectors hidden in lampshades above. It comes to life on the pages of a book placed in front of each guest, and then on their crockery – with waiters carefully placing dishes and table decorations to fit around the animated scene. “The challenge is the service, because it has to be a dance,” says Beshir. “The pace of the diner is the pace of the story.”
The food served reflects the virtual creations of Le Petit Chef as he experiments with the new ingredients he encounters on his travels: an amuse-bouche in France is followed by traditional Arabian fare served with edible sand. A lamb dish on Mount Everest is accompanied by dry ice. While projectors and other multisensory tricks are becoming a trend in the restaurant industry, Beshir says that the secret to making a dining experience feel truly immersive is to use the technology as a storytelling tool, not a gimmick. “It’s like a play but with different media – and the food is part of the artistic expression.”