Sampling the future
Sampling the future
Asking is more difficult than responding, particularly when the answers are already there and when we use them simply because we can. What is more, asking is not a naive act. Any question that aspires to be interesting is by definition tricksy. It has to summon the biases which shape it, and in doing so look to the future. For that reason, we propose not viewpoints but reflections in a liquid and disorganised context.
Why do I eat how I eat? What will tomorrow’s food be? Will there be a way of differentiating between real food—whatever this is—and food which is merely edible? What appetites will it satiate and what type of hunger, lack or desire will it be capable of responding to?
How can we address entropy? Will gastronomy become a form of conversation or will it be unapproachable gibberish? What role will haute cuisine have in a future which is so uncertain? Will it be something token and only accessible by the few, or will it be the launching pad for a phenomenon which approaches excellence as the transfer of know-how to society?
How will we address the eruption of new players in the world of algorithms or the Internet of Things, knowing that, although these do not provide opinions, they have an immense power to shape reality? Will fake news prevail, or will food be a bastion which helps preserve the human capacity for storytelling? What will we do with the torrent of information that we generate around the table? Will it be available to everyone or, conversely, will it be the preserve of data mining experts?
What sort of media presence will cooking have? Will it be capable of avoiding the trivialisation entailed in bowing to being a ‘human interest’ spectacle—which simple exploits it—or will it choose instead to evolve? Will chefs and food critics lose the authority they have acquired? Will it surpass them or will they share it? What will happen with how we assess what we eat? Will gastronomy be understood as much more than simply talking about chefs and restaurants?
In the world of food activism: Will the social movement that is gastronomy address the rapid change we are living through from the ground up? Will food be the next identity fetish, the next religion to take refuge in, or will we witness a widespread movement which aspires to build a different world, one which uses food as its tool? In a world which demands ever more knowledge, will we continue to be what we eat, or rather will we be ‘what we know that we eat’? Will the world of cooking view ‘social’ gastronomy not as synonymous with charity or humanitarian action but as the expression of gastronomy when it connects with society as a whole?
How will nations use gastronomy in their promotional strategies? How will chefs manage the immense resources that fame puts at their disposal? Will they proclaim themselves spokespeople for change built on education and clear messages such as ‘back to cooking’, ‘back to cultivating’, back to eating together’? Will they succeed in showing that ‘quick, tasty and healthy’ is possible on a daily basis? How can gastronomy help address hunger without being misrepresentative? How will the demand for gender equality be addressed in the world of gastronomy in the #MeToo era? Will we be convinced once and for all that sustainability is not just a word with many syllables but something which starts in our immediate personal, leisure and work environments?
Will gastronomy acquire definitive status as a science? How much continuity will there be in its collaboration with other scientific disciplines? Will it be a mere entente, or will different disciplines cross-pollinate to create a shared space for experimentation which is open to radical uncertainty? Given its interdisciplinary nature, will gastronomy encourage the various schools of thought around the table of knowledge to start talking to one another and stop fighting once and for all?
Will gastronomy lead to affect and not just to effect? Will the emergence of science in kitchens be an anti-climax, or will the hedonistic spirit which has always gone hand in hand with gastronomy prevail? Will we incorporate technique and technology into our daily lives or will we remain tethered to the fascination of the unknowing among us? If knowledge is just as important as taste, how will the knowledge obtained from gastronomy research be popularised?
Will gastronomy know how to advocate intangible goods, i.e. those which are difficult to put a number to and which are never considered in financial accounts? How will we envisage a more complex food chain which differs from the monetary-based perspective of the service sector (hospitality, restaurants, catering)? What perspective does gastronomy have to take on ecosystem management, food production, the food processing industry and food marketing and distribution strategies? Will gastronomy succeed in finding common ground between contradictory viewpoints or in bring opposing ideologies to the table in favour of biodiversity, sustainable production and greater access to food and services?
What will the entrepreneurs of the future be like? Will they be individuals, like free electrons, applying their ingenuity in sectors which are screaming out for creativity and innovation? If enterprise entails experimenting with formats, how should we imagine the restaurants of the future? Will a restaurant be a place or will it be software? What will we call an enterprising chef who spends more time in front of a computer than a stove? What new forms will food take when it is dematerialised or digitalised permanently? In the face of all the unknown, how can we encourage our new role as prosumers? How can we make society understand that in these times, the most decisive way of producing is consuming? How do we build our world from the supermarket shelves?
Will eating in the future be a complete, 3D and immersive experience which uses smart design to captivate our senses as well as our thoughts and emotions? Will eating empower the diner so that they understand and enjoy the experience, or will they be bolted to the chair only to be bombarded with stimulants and have their intelligence numbed? Is smart gastronomy possible without smart diners? In this sense, isn’t knowledge of something as seemingly banal as eating the next form of extravagance?
What will come out of this smorgasbord of ideas?