In Depth

Dinner Time Stories: An immersive journey while you dine

Nadine Beshir on producing an innovative culinary concept that uses technology to bring food to life on the plate

The character of Le Petit Chef and the concept of what we call 'dinner table mapping' was developed by my partners in Belgium in 2015. They are animation artists who use a new technique called 3D projection mapping. Everyone was using it on buildings, walls and huge structures, but not creating a story, just a purely visual effect. What they thought is: 'why don't we do the opposite? Why don't we do miniature items, create something that is personal and intimate and tells a story.' So they came up with the idea of a little chef who lives in a big world, and he's cooking on the plate for guests.

In 2015, when they created their first video, it became a viral sensation. I met with them and we decided to take that concept a bit further and bring it to the real world as something that is a theatrical experience for the customer. So we developed the hour-and-a-half dining show Le Petit Chef. We decided to start with the travels of Marco Polo as inspiration, because of the influence he had on western cuisine. He brought noodles from the east to Italy, alongside spices and other new flavours that really shaped how food is today. Le Petit Chef follows the Silk Road and is always on an adventure looking for new ingredients.

To bring this to life, we tried a new type of projection onto an old book, and we also project onto the plate too. There's added interaction, so sometimes you have to find your food within a closed box, or you pour hot water and you don't realise there is dry ice, so it becomes cloudy. We use props and animation to tell the stories of the travels. For example, when you go to India there's 3D miniature spice bags, and cards with each bag that tells the background behind them, and we use spices that aren't commonly used so it tickles the palate of the diner. When you get to Arabia there's a box, and it's like a trapdoor. When you open it there's handmade pottery, and we explain how the pottery was made, and there's goodies inside the box to keep as a souvenir.

Putting together the show has been a collaboration between myself – as a producer and director – and the chef, animation artists and prop makers. Even with the service, we animate according to a set time, so it all has to fit together.

In Dubai it has snowballed and we've carried on running the dinners as we had full occupancy. We are also launching in Brussels, London and Berlin in October. People have told us that they can't explain it in words. You have to see it first hand to really understand it – service, sounds, sights and smells come together in an extraordinary multi-sensory experience.

NADINE BESHIR is the producer behind Dinner Time Stories, an immersive culinary experience that uses cutting-edge 3D technology to tell a story on the plate. Le Petit Chef is coming to Europe in October; dinnertimestory.com

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