Book: Kitchens (G.A. Fine 2008)


Taking the restaurant as a metaphor for delivering compelling user experiences means being interested in the backstage as well as the frontstage. Backstage work in the restaurant (a.k.a. the kitchen) has been the ethnographic subject of the American sociologist Gary Alan Fine (1950). He published his findings in “Kitchens: The Culture of Restaurant Work“.

About the book: “Kitchens takes us into the robust, overheated, backstage world of the contemporary restaurant. In this rich, often surprising portrait of the real lives of kitchen workers, Gary Alan Fine brings their experiences, challenges, and satisfactions to colorful life. A new preface updates this riveting exploration of how restaurants actually work, both individually and as part of a larger culinary culture.”

The day begins slowly. Entering an empty, clean kitchen on a cool summer morning, one has little sense of the blistering tornado of action to come.

Mixologist Homaro Cantu Explains


Chairman and founder of Cantu Designs and executive chef of Moto restaurant Homaro Cantu shows how our expectations of food based upon what we know or are familiar with can be used to change texture, taste, smell and flavor and create new experiences. Great example of designing a new food experience with known ingredients but with different processes. Transmogrification (a.k.a. the process or result of changing from one appearance, state, or phase to another) is what he does.

From Pop!Tech 2006: “Part mad scientist, part artist, chef Homaro Cantu pushes the traditional limits of known taste, texture and technique in a stunning futuristic fashion. With lab partner Ben Roche, Homaro slices and dices technology to reinvent the way people eat.”

Watch his presentation at Pop!Tech 2006.

In this podcast (ITConversations), he talks about his background, restaurant and dishes.

courtesy filip borloo

Follow The Recipe


Ron Gagnier (IBM CAN) sees an analogy between the process of cooking with recipes and the process of user-centered software design. Almost just like we do.

From his article at UXmatters: “I may have taken my analogy of following a recipe too far, but I really do think the comparison is a valid one. Recipes exist to ensure cooks can acquire the right ingredients, follow a sequence of predefined steps, and prepare a dish consistently every time. The same is true of a software design process: By following a design process, an entire project team can know what steps to perform and what they’ll deliver. When your team must make substitutions, let experience and sound judgment guide you in making the most appropriate choices. Continue to learn and grow in your role as a designer, because this will help you make better substitution decisions.”

ACM SIGCHI References for Food Design & UX

During the Chi 2009 panel discussion (moderated by Patañjali S. Venkatacharya) on what user experience designers could learn from food designers, the following references were mentioned.

Lessons from Celebrity Chefs


Caroline Jarrett writes in Caroline’s Corner about the differences between The Heuristic Inspection (Gordon Ramsay) and User-Centered Design (Heston Blumenthal) on how to improve the restaurant experiences. On Ramsay “I realised that Ramsay is really doing heuristic inspections. He has a list of specific things that a good restaurant should do, starting with basic hygiene (he’s very keen on not killing the diners). He looks at the quality of service, level of organisation in the kitchen, portion control and profitability.” and on Blumenthal “Blumenthal watched the videos of the user reactions and totally changed his approach (now, doesn’t that sound familiar?). He started to think about the users, and not just the diners who already chose Little Chef.”

Panel at CHI 2009: What Can UX Learn From Food Design


Panelists include Patanjali S. Venkatacharya (Oracle Corp., USA), Ronald M. Baecker (University of Toronto, Canada), Daniel Schwartz (Oracle USA Inc., USA), Chef Jody Adams (Rialto Restaurant, USA) and Chef Jason Santos (Gargoyles Restaurant, USA).

“This panel will bring together a group of user experience experts, with a group often overlooked in the art and science of user experience and food designers. The panelists will include: an award-winning Michelin-starred Chef, a culinary school instructor, a user experience practitioner, and a world-renowned HCI academic.

Together, the panel will compare and contrast concepts from food design and user experience including the challenges of meeting demanding end-user needs, and best practices from food design that one could potentially apply to the design of everyday things.

The main objective of the panel is to explore pertinent questions on the craft of design from two different domain perspectives, whilst evaluating some of the key overlapping concepts.

Among the issues they will examine are:

  • How to ensure that designs satisfy the end customers
  • The top 3 challenges in coming up with a new design (or recipe)
  • How to conduct user testing in a high-stress environment
  • Processes to use in developing entirely new creations

From a press release of CHI 2009 (April 4-9, 2009 – Boston, USA). – I’m speechless.

UPDATE: Panel abstract (ACM) – Photo impression of the panel.

Jesse James Garrett on UX and Cooking


In his closing keynote at the 10th ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit (Memphis TN – March 18-22, 2009), Jesse James Garrett (president of Adaptive Path) stated the following: “(…) we’re all user experience designers (…) We can engage people’s senses. We can stimulate them through visuals, through sound, through touch and smell and taste. This is the domain of the traditional creative arts: painting, music, fashion, cooking.”

Told you so!

What’s Your Cooking Personality?


Personas are documents describing multiple relevant aspects of a target audience. Is someone’s behaviour structured or rather chaotic. This also reflects in cooking styles. Is ‘mise en place’ obvious or not (e.g. cooking while preparing).

Now, enrich your persona descriptions with traits of people’s cooking personalities. They reveal a lot. “Cornell University researchers studied nearly 800 family cooks and determined five distinct types. So what’s your cooking personality?” – by Tara Parker-Pope (NYT)

What’s Cooking? The Evolutionary Role of Cookery


Be human, start cooking! – “Cooking is a human universal. No society is without it. No one other than a few faddists tries to survive on raw food alone. And the consumption of a cooked meal in the evening, usually in the company of family and friends, is normal in every known society. Moreover, without cooking, the human brain (which consumes 20-25% of the body’s energy) could not keep running. Dr Wrangham thus believes that cooking and humanity are coeval.” – From an article in The Econonomist on Richard Wrangham’s thesis (anthropologist – Harvard University)

Food, Dude


Susan Coleman Morse and Eli Blevis wrote an article (full version coming soon) in the ACM Interactions Magazine XVI.2: “Permaculture, urban farming, and locavorism – all are newly familiar terms that we define in this month’s forum and that are implicated in sustainable lifestyles. All denote opportunities for interaction designers. By opportunities, we mean not only potential applications of interactive technologies to help where no interactive technologies have been previously applied, but also the potential use of interactive technologies to more broadly distribute the cherishable wisdom of those who practice simpler, more sustainable, more natural heirloom and traditional forms of food culture and land use…”