Design Products students have participated in ‘Pleasuring your Palate’, a day-long workshop at Borough Market, led by guest tutor David Bordow. The workshop used human-centred design principles to cater to individual needs and experiences, challenging the 12 participants’ understanding of food and expanding their approaches to cooking.
At the start of the day each participant was given money to spend in the market on the ingredients they were most drawn to and inspired by. The participants came from eight different countries; therefore their selection of food was influenced by personal knowledge of various cuisines and diverse cultural attitudes to food. Back in the Borough Market Cookhouse, guided by Bordow, the participants worked on new recipes from scratch using their chosen ingredients to create a meal collaboratively.
Bordow is a California-based product designer, engineer and cook. Prior to the workshop at Borough Market, he delivered a workshop at the College, exploring food in the same way any material can be approached in the design process. With a background in mechanical engineering, Bordow’s experience with food includes starting a catering company in Los Angeles, working with the Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome and cooking at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Currently, he is a Shop Teaching Assistant in Stanford‘s Product Realization Lab, where he is developing ways of using cooking to address physical and experiential design challenges.
‘Pleasuring your Palate’ emboldened participants with a standardised set of cooking skills, with which to approach creating cohesive and well-designed meals. Bordow’s approach embraces flexibility and treats food as a material with qualities that can be augmented through careful treatment and experimentation. This sensitive approach is suited to cooking with seasonal produce and making the most of available ingredients.
The workshop participants were encouraged to assess familiar recipes for their chosen ingredients, breaking them down into the most basic components used to flavour food: salt, fat and acidity. One student selected white asparagus, for which hollandaise source is a traditional accompaniment. They created instead a deconstructed version of this recipe – consisting of a citrus butter and poached eggs served on top the asparagus. The workshop aimed to transform perceptions of food as a source of fuel to an exciting design challenge. Inversely, the design techniques and processes learned in the kitchen can also be reflected back onto approaches to any design challenge.
‘Pleasuring your Palate’ took place in cooperation with Stanford‘s Product Realization Lab as part of ‘Open Food’, a wider research project within Design Products. This research, carried out in partnership with Brunel University and the University of Nottingham, is exploring food as a means to work through design processes and challenges. The focus of the research is on cake-making as a process through which to build digital tools for food and packaging co-creation.
Jonathan Edelman, Design Products senior tutor, explained: ‘In terms of open design and open innovation, the creation of food is a great way to receive instant feedback on prototypes. You are constantly testing and receiving responses to ideas.’ Key to the ‘Open Food’ research are the principles of resilience, flexibility and nous, which can all be seen to have played a part in the one-day ‘Pleasuring your Palate’ workshop. Edelman expanded these concepts as ‘a sensitivity for material or towards a design challenge, the ability to make adjustments and an attentiveness to results and outcomes. The workshop can be seen as a model for the persistence needed to make things work, a resilience that is needed for successful entrepreneurship.’
The research and learning outcomes of the ‘Pleasuring your Palate’ workshop will feed into the continuing research for ‘Open Food’. However, perhaps the best result of the workshop was the delicious, healthy meal and tangible enjoyment and pleasure of all the participants. Embodying the core aim of Design Products at the RCA: creativity for purpose.