A synaesthetic dining experience

Ella Rhodes on a new residency.

For people who do not have synaesthesia it is difficult to imagine a world where sound has colour, colour has flavour, or numbers are unique personalities you know well. But this month sees the launch of a series of educational and multisensory dining events organised with the help of psychologists and experts in the field.

Synaesthesia by Kitchen Theory is an event that will incorporate sensory audiovisual aids and the collaboration of knowledge from academia with an experimental seven-course modernist meal cooked by Michelin restaurant experienced chefs. Each event caters for 14 and offers an insight into the world of synaesthesia. Kitchen Theory has worked with Professor Charles Spence and his team at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University, as well as Sean Day (President of the American Synesthesia Association) and Richard E. Cytowic, neurologist and author of Wednesday is Indigo Blue, to understand the condition.

Jozef Youssef, Founder and Chef Patron, gave us an example of the approach. ‘We knew we wanted an amuse bouche which highlights our individual associations between colour and flavour, both universal and cultural. Ours consists of four bite-size elements each of which will represent one of the four most recognised and familiar tastes; sweet, sour, salty, bitter. Each element will be coloured differently to correlate with that taste’s associated colour, based on research by the Crossmodal Lab.

A video, featuring Professor Spence, will introduce diners to the topic of the senses and synaesthesia, and the guests will be asked to arrange the four elements in front of them according to what they perceive as being sweet, sour, salty, bitter, based only on sight. Then it’s time to put their perceptions to the test – for some this will be a straightforward experience, some may find a few elements surprising, for others perhaps incongruent.’

The dinners will be hosted at Maida Hill Place in London, Thursday to Saturday every fortnight from 12 February. The seven-course dinner costs £56 per head or £32 for a three-course lunch with an amuse bouche. Kitchen Theory’s 2015 residency will also include cooking classes, talks and private events. For further information, go to tinyurl.com/nuzb2d5.

For more on synaesthesia, see ack Dutton’s article on in this issue; a 'state of the art' from 2003; and plenty on the Research Digest. For more on the work of Professor Charles Spence and the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, see https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/down-culinary-rabbit-hole

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