How Dining is Going Digital

Ed Peters wrote . . . . . . . . .

What came first, the 3D chicken or the augmented reality egg? Digital dining is making the transition from fad to mainstream, with interactive, computer-generated feasts being rustled up around the world.

In Thailand, the Park Hyatt Bangkok was one of the first places to embrace the idea in Asia by hosting an immersive 3D culinary journey in the Embassy Room, the hotel’s modern European restaurant, last year.

Starring “Le Petit Chef” – a tiny, digital cook – a culinary journey was projected onto the dinner table, with the chef muttering to himself as he pottered from France to China and back, following the footsteps of Marco Polo and creating a menu from the dishes he found along the way.

A large supporting cast in the shape of birds, boats and fire-breathing dragons helped to spice up the story.

“The meal could include Arabic cuisine, a touch of spice from India, sorbet from the Himalayas, and steamed sea bass and lobster dim sum from China before returning to France for dessert,” says Sebastian Krack, Park Hyatt Bangkok’s director of food and beverage.

“People love theatre, they love cinema, they love technology, and of course they love eating and drinking, so Le Petit Chef combined all of these. It’s fine dining, but it’s fun fine dining.”

At 3,999 baht (US$124) a head, the digital dining experience ranked as one of the Thai capital’s more expensive meals. However, though it started out as a cautious experiment, Le Petit Chef proved incredibly popular. The hotel is temporarily closed, but plans are in place to revamp the digital chef’s adventures as soon as possible for guests.

Le Petit Chef – who has also captivated diners in restaurants across Europe and the Middle East – was created in 2015 in the studio of Belgian artist collective Skullmapping, which was founded in 2010 by Filip Sterckx and Antoon Verbeeck.

“The 3D effect in our videos is often thought of as a hologram or a 3D projection,” Sterckx says. “In fact, it is a normal projection. We use special optical techniques and length distortions from the right angle to produce the effect or illusion of 3D.”

Another form of digital dining – augmented reality (AR) – is being used by some establishments to give customers a chance to see a digital version of a dish from all angles before they order by pointing their smartphone or tablet at a particular surface.

In New York, burger chain Bareburger and chain bakery Magnolia Bakery are encouraging customers to use such AR food models generated by digital company QReal to view dishes before ordering. The technology is not new, but its presence on a plate is innovative.

“It all started back in 2016 when I invited friends to my favourite Turkish restaurant in New York – Sip Sak in Midtown East,” says QReal’s head of product, Alper Guler, who was born in Turkey.

“I love traditional Turkish cuisine there but there was one problem – none of my New Yorker friends had any idea about the items on the menu. I saved the day by picking all my favourites for the table, but the idea of using AR for food ordering sparked in my mind.

“At the time, my business partner, Caner Soyer, and I were trying to create augmented and virtual reality solutions for the architecture market. I told him about my experience at the Turkish restaurant, and we based our idea around sampuru [Japanese fake food models made from plastic].”

Coming up with a workable solution was not something the pair was able to do overnight.

“To show models through AR, you first need 3D models of the items,” Guler says. “When we started working on the idea, there weren’t any realistic 3D models for food optimised for AR. Creating realistic models for organic products is close to impossible, and it can take weeks to create just one.”

Instead they used a process called photogrammetry, which involves taking photos of an object from lots of different angles and then stitching the images together to create a 3D model. Once they had photographed the dishes, they spent months optimising the models to create smaller file sizes that would work on AR platforms.

The next hurdle came when QReal tried to sell the idea to a market already being bombarded with tech solutions.

“The only way to use AR was via an app which had to be downloaded. This limited our distribution, but over time, Snapchat, Apple, Google, Facebook and Instagram developed AR features into their platforms and this changed everything for us,” Guler says.

“Now, we are creating end-to-end AR experiences for many well-known food brands – there’s ample time for research while many businesses are locked down – and we are planning to extend our services to fashion, automotives and other markets as well.”

Guler is keen to see QReal expand its food reach further into Asia.

“I can see it being very popular in China, for example,” he says. “People use mini programs on Baidu and QR codes to access information all the time, and AR can offer an extended experience through these platforms. I also believe the AR food idea can work in the Japanese market to compete with sampuru – it has the advantage of not using plastic.”

Not surprisingly, Japan has already proven to be something of a pathfinder in digital dining, with Tokyo restaurant Tree by Naked – piloted by multimedia artist Ryotaro Muramatsu – leading the way.

He came up with a dinner that was not so much a meal as an operatic performance, during which the food played second fiddle to digital displays of objects such as branches and petals that appeared to move and grow to depict a tree’s life cycle. The meal was priced at 23,000 yen (US$215) per head.

“For most people, this sort of experience is something they try once in a lifetime,” says Laura Offe, managing director of The Box Partnership, a food and beverage consulting firm based in Sheung Wan in Hong Kong.

“I took my mother to [experimental restaurant] Ultraviolet in Shanghai for her birthday. It’s run by the French chef Paul Pairet and the food’s amazing, but the whole experience is simply radical.”

A much-lauded trailblazer, Ultraviolet came up with the idea of combining projections, lighting, scent and sound to turn its single 10-seat arena into a virtual world where a mere supper is elevated into a cinematic, multisensory adventure.

It’s proved a hit, with one reviewer gushing: “Ultraviolet finally transgresses the rules, reinvents the restaurant, not to mention the cuisine; this … could be the hospitality, the service, and the cuisine of the 21st century.”

Offe adds that it wasn’t just a culinary experience; it was holistic and amazing because Pairet had thought out every single detail.

“We got about 20 different dishes, and he must have at least 25 staff working on a single meal. Of course, you have to pay for this, more than 2,000 renminbi [US$280] a head.”

Offe says that although somewhere like Ultraviolet has the potential to earn a lot for its owners, it also costs a lot to set up and maintain.

“Digital dining is not a flash in the pan and it’s here to stay – but restaurants are far more likely to use AR,” she says. “It’s particularly appealing to anyone trying out a cuisine that they’re not familiar with, or if they’re in a bar and want to see what a particular cocktail looks like. Either way, it’s going to have a terrific influence on eating out in the future.”

Source : SCMP

Watch video at You Tube (3:04 minutes)

Le Petit Chef . . . .

Chinese-style Steamed Pork Ribs with Pickled Plums


250 g pork ribs, sweet and sour cut
4 pickled plums
1 tbsp soybean paste
1 tbsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cornstarch
2 small red chilies, seeds removed and diced
1 stalk green onion, diced


2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp Shao Xing wine
1 tbsp oil


  1. Cut pork ribs into square pieces. Clean, drain and wipe dry with paper towel.
  2. Remove skin and seeds of pickled plums. Place in a small bowl and mash into paste. Add garlic, sugar and soybean paste. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Mix ribs with cornstarch. Add seasoning ingredients, the pickled plum mixture, and chilies. Mix well.
  4. Place seasoned ribs in a heat-proof deep dish. Steam on high heat for 15 minutes until fully cooked. Remove from steamer and scatter green onion on top before serving.

Source: Pearl’s Home Cooking

In Pictures: Food of Caprice in Hong Kong

Contemporary French Cuisine

The 2020 Michelin 3-star Restaurant

New AI Diagnostic Can Predict COVID-19 Without Testing

Researchers at King’s College London, Massachusetts General Hospital and health science company ZOE have developed an artificial intelligence diagnostic that can predict whether someone is likely to have COVID-19 based on their symptoms. Their findings are published today in Nature Medicine.

The AI model uses data from the COVID Symptom Study app to predict COVID-19 infection, by comparing people’s symptoms and the results of traditional COVID tests. Researchers say this may provide help for populations where access to testing is limited. Two clinical trials in the UK and the US are due to start shortly.

More than 3.3 million people globally have downloaded the app and are using it to report daily on their health status, whether they feel well or have any new symptoms such as persistent cough, fever, fatigue and loss of taste or smell (anosmia).

In this study, the researchers analysed data gathered from just under 2.5 million people in the UK and US who had been regularly logging their health status in the app, around a third of whom had logged symptoms associated with COVID-19. Of these, 18,374 reported having had a test for coronavirus, with 7,178 people testing positive.

The research team investigated which symptoms known to be associated with COVID-19 were most likely to be associated with a positive test. They found a wide range of symptoms compared to cold and flu, and warn against focusing only on fever and cough. Indeed, they found loss of taste and smell (anosmia) was particularly striking, with two thirds of users testing positive for coronavirus infection reporting this symptom compared with just over a fifth of the participants who tested negative. The findings suggest that anosmia is a stronger predictor of COVID-19 than fever, supporting anecdotal reports of loss of smell and taste as a common symptom of the disease.

The researchers then created a mathematical model that predicted with nearly 80% accuracy whether an individual is likely to have COVID-19 based on their age, sex and a combination of four key symptoms: loss of smell or taste, severe or persistent cough, fatigue and skipping meals. Applying this model to the entire group of over 800,000 app users experiencing symptoms predicted that just under a fifth of those who were unwell (17.42%) were likely to have COVID-19 at that time.

Researchers suggest that combining this AI prediction with widespread adoption of the app could help to identify those who are likely to be infectious as soon as the earliest symptoms start to appear, focusing tracking and testing efforts where they are most needed.

Professor Tim Spector from King’s College London said: “Our results suggest that loss of taste or smell is a key early warning sign of COVID-19 infection and should be included in routine screening for the disease. We strongly urge governments and health authorities everywhere to make this information more widely known, and advise anyone experiencing sudden loss of smell or taste to assume that they are infected and follow local self-isolation guidelines.”

Source: King’s College London

Healthy Eating Behaviors in Childhood May Reduce the Risk of Adult Obesity and Heart Disease

How children are fed may be just as important as what they are fed, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association, “Caregiver Influences on Eating Behaviors in Young Children,” published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The statement is the first from the Association focused on providing evidence-based strategies for parents and caregivers to create a healthy food environment for young children that supports the development of positive eating behaviors and the maintenance of a healthy weight in childhood, thereby reducing the risks of overweight, obesity and cardiovascular disease later in life.

Although many children are born with an innate ability to stop eating when they are full, they are also influenced by the overall emotional atmosphere, including caregiver wishes and demands during mealtimes. If children feel under pressure to eat in response to caregiver wants, it may be harder for them to listen to their individual internal cues that tell them when they are full.

Allowing children to choose what and especially how much to eat within an environment composed of healthy options encourages children to develop and eventually take ownership of their decisions about food and may help them develop eating patterns linked to a healthy weight for a lifetime, according to the statement authors.

“Parents and caregivers should consider building a positive food environment centered on healthy eating habits, rather than focusing on rigid rules about what and how a child should eat,” said Alexis C. Wood, Ph.D., the writing group chair for the scientific statement and assistant professor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agriculture Research Services Children’s Nutrition Research Center and the department of pediatrics (nutrition section) at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The statement suggests that parents and caregivers should be positive role models by creating an environment that demonstrates and supports healthy food choices, rather than an environment focused on controlling children’s choices or highlighting body weight. Parents and caregivers should encourage children to eat healthy foods by:

  • providing consistent timing for meals;
  • allowing children to select what foods they want to eat from a selection of healthy choices;
  • serving healthy or new foods alongside foods children already enjoy;
  • regularly eating new, healthy foods while eating with the child and demonstrating enjoyment of the food;
  • paying attention to a child’s verbal or non-verbal hunger and fullness cues; and
  • avoiding pressuring children to eat more than they wish to eat.

Wood noted that some parents and caregivers may find it challenging to allow children to make their own food decisions, especially if the children become reluctant to try new foods and/or become picky eaters. These behaviors are common and considered normal in early childhood, ages 1 to 5 years, as children are learning about the tastes and textures of solid foods. Imposing rigid, authoritarian rules around eating and using tactics such as rewards or punishments may feel like successful tactics in the short term. However, research does not support this approach; rather, it may have long-term, negative consequences. An authoritarian eating environment does not allow a child to develop positive decision-making skills and can reduce their sense of control, which are important developmental processes for children.

In addition, the authoritarian approach has been linked to children being more likely to eat when they are not hungry and eating less healthy foods that are likely higher in calories, which increase the risk of overweight and obesity and/or conditions of disordered eating.

On the other hand, an indulgent approach, where a child is allowed to eat whatever they want whenever they want, does not provide enough boundaries for children to develop healthy eating habits. Research has also linked this “laissez-faire” approach to a greater risk of children becoming overweight or having obesity.

Research does suggest that some strategies can increase children’s dietary variety during the early years if they are “picky” or “fussy” about foods. Repeatedly offering children a wide variety of healthy foods increases the likelihood they will accept them, particularly when served with foods they prefer. In addition, caregivers or parents who enthusiastically eat a food may also help a child accept this food. Modeling eating healthy foods – by caregivers, siblings and peers – is a good strategy for helping children to be open to a wider variety of food options.

“Children’s eating behaviors are influenced by a lot of people in their lives, so ideally, we want the whole family to demonstrate healthy eating habits,” said Wood.

It is important to note that not all strategies work for all children, and parents and caregivers should not feel undue stress or blame for children’s eating behaviors. “It is very clear that each child is an individual and differs in their tendency to make healthy decisions about food as they grow. This is why it is important to focus on creating an environment that encourages decision-making skills and provides exposure to a variety of healthy, nutritious foods throughout childhood, and not place undue attention on the child’s individual decisions,” concluded Wood.

Caregivers can be a powerful force in helping children develop healthy eating habits, and yet their role is limited by other factors. The statement authors encourage policies that address barriers to implementing the statement’s recommendations within the wider socioeconomic context, including social determinants of health such as socio-economic status, food insecurity and others. While efforts that encourage caregivers to provide a responsive, structured feeding environment could be an important component of reducing obesity and cardiometabolic risk across the lifespan, they note that they will be most effective as part of a multi-level, multi-component prevention strategy.

Source: American Heart Association

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