- Title: 'Like tasting for the first time'- VR eating debuts in NY
- Date: 20th December 2019
- Summary: VARIOUS OF VR PANELS / DINERS
- Embargoed: 3rd January 2020 22:33
- Keywords: James Beard Rahi Roni Mazumdar VR eating Virtual reality
- Location: NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES / SHANGHAI, CHINA
- City: NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES / SHANGHAI, CHINA
- Country: USA
- Topics: Living / Lifestyle,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA007BAS3UCB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Step aside foams and plant-based food, the cutting edge of food may not even include food anymore.
That's the idea of Aerobanquets RMX, "a mixed reality art and dining experience" currently on the menu at a mecca of New York dining, the James Beard House. In practice, the Virtual Reality (VR) eating experience allows diners to see a representation of their food through goggles they wear while dining. VR, a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image, enables users to immerse.
The artist behind Aerobanquets RMX is Italian interdisciplinary artist, Mattia Casalegno.
And VR eating upends the traditional experience of eating, diners at the Beard House told Reuters.
"When I see steak, I think, 'ok, it's gonna be like this. It's going to have this chewiness, or this softness,'" explained Wolfgang Jorde, a 25-year old finance associate of the James Beard Foundation who participated in a VR meal at which Reuters was present. Having traditional vision replaced with VR imagery eliminates the visual element of customary eating. And so as food came his way, Jorde was "really trying to figure it out," he said. It's 'like tasting for the first time,' It's like, you know, you've never had a piece of cod before and you're trying to figure it out."
The meal Jorde and his peers participated in was hosted by Aerobanquets's CEO Roni Mazumdar, who is also the founder of New York-based South Asian restaurants Rahi, Adda and Dhamaka. And so the night's menu was heavily influenced by region, including a Kafta featuring goat cheese, and a Dal with lemon dumplings,
For Mazumdar, the hope is that eating will become a "little more enhanced because of the ambiance" VR allows. "Would that seafood taste better if you were sitting on a boat in the middle of an ocean with your uncle next to you that you haven't seen in years?"
VR eating has also appeared at Japanese restaurants like, "Tree by Naked." Aerobanquets RMX itself has already had runs in Seoul and Shanghai.
But according to Mazumdar, the inspiration for VR eating is in fact nearly a century old, stemming from "The Futurist Cookbook," which was published in 1932 by Italian activist, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, as a collection of surrealist recipes.
As with many new trends, VR eating is currently an elite affair. Tickets cost $125 per person for the hour-long, seven-course experience at the Beard House.
Whether VR will ever have a mass appeal remains an open question; consumer VR software investments fell 59 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to SuperData Research, as was reported by Bloomberg.
At the same time, hardware VR sales are up. And according to Mitchell Davis, the chief strategy officer of the James Beard Foundation, VR eating has the potential to bring "expensive technology to a much broader audience," as he told Reuters. "You don't need 50 people in a kitchen and a thousand dollar dinner to have a transporting experience that changes the way you think about food."
Located in Manhattan's West Village, the James Beard Foundation is known for giving out the biggest awards for the U.S. restaurant industry.
Tickets for Aerobanquets RMX are available through January 26.
(Production by: Dan Fastenberg and Hussein al Waaile)
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