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Alinea Serviceware


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#31 jhlurie

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Posted 25 August 2004 - 09:12 AM

That was my point. The El Bulli tableware seems to be "grounded" in that the foods rest on stones and containers of various sorts. The Alinea tableware seems more airborne. But a design expert would make a better comparison.

Perhaps it's a bit cheesy, but I could see a meal (and accompanying serviceware) designed around the four elements--earth, air, water and fire. Somebody has probably already tried it, minus the appropriate serviceware.
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#32 nick.kokonas

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Posted 25 August 2004 - 09:53 AM

I ate such a meal a few years ago -- designed around "the elements" and sight, sound etc. -- at L'Auberge Du Soleil in Napa Valley. Not all of the dishes presented were in that theme, but they were going in that direction and it was pointed out to us.

The design of these service pieces is very different conceptually from that. Most often, Chef Achatz has a particular course that is ill suited for traditional serviceware -- or could be presented more effectively through non-conventional means. That leads to the creation of the service piece.... not the other way around.

As Chef Achatz said in his post, if the food does not taste good -- in fact, taste excellent -- then the process degenerates to mere showboating or gimickry. The diner is left thinking that someone is trying to be clever. That in turn, leads to the type of cynicism that Fat Guy warns about. And in that case, I think it is justified.

I think the critical distinction here is one that Martin pointed out on another thread -- "We aren’t trying to make a gesture just for the sake of being interesting" -- it must contribute to the food that is being presented.

In all aspects of the Alinea design that thought is being kept in the fore.

#33 RebeccaT

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Posted 25 August 2004 - 10:57 AM

I greatly admire these designs, am utterly fascinated in fact, but not as much from an artistic POV but from the "human factors" perspective. The serveware you are developing is a perfect example of a problem (how do I make sure that diners experience food in the way that enhances their experience) leading to a solution, rather than a solution (hey, I made this cool-looking thing, let's see what kind of food we can serve with it!) in search of a problem.

I have worked with industrial designers who were too artistic to be practical, and with designers who were too practical and ignored the "experience" aspect of their designs. This seems to strike a critical balance between the two.

I hope to find myself in Chicago so that I can try it for myself!

#34 Jinmyo

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Posted 25 August 2004 - 04:02 PM

[quote name='Squeat Mungry' date='Aug 25 2004, 03:35 AM'] Here is a link to Robert Brown's photo-essay on the "taller" (= studio, atelier) of Ferran Adrià, with some examples of the el Bulli group's tableware. The comparisons are interesting.[/QUOTE]
I was waiting for the Adria reference. Where is Jinmyo? [/quote]

Fascinating serviceware, chefg.
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#35 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 25 August 2004 - 04:34 PM

I ate at Chef Grant's Trio fairly recently. The experience was a profound one. For me, it was virtually impossible to separate the food from the serviceware, at least in terms of how I remember the dishes I had.

As many others have mentioned, there is nothing concocted about these pieces. They are organic extensions of the food itself. Here is an example:

Several ingredients are placed in a glass tube and the diner is instructed to 'suck' one end of that tube. There are many factors at work...

1) The entire dish, in all its intricate detail, is visible in the glass tube. It looks like nothing the diner has ever seen before.

2) The components are placed in that tube in a specific order, so that their respective flavors and textures are experienced in that specific order.

3) There is a known (range of) speed at which the components of the dish will enter the diner's mouth. The procession is not random, it's calculated to deliver a sequence of known (to the chef) sensations at specific intervals.

4) The dish, served in this specific way, allows the diner to experience a combination of flavors, aromas, textures and temperatures in a completely new way.

5) The entire process of eating this dish takes the diner to new territory. New combinations are discovered. Familiar ones are redefined. An emotional experience is elicited.

This is just an analysis of one dish. Multiply it out by ~25+ dishes, a dozen or more specifically-paired wines and 5 hours and you begin to understand not only how important the serviceware is to Chef Grant's food but also how completely inseparable they are.

It's also worth mentioning that, at Trio at least (and I'd bet Alinea will be the same in this regard), the staff was incredibly friendly, helpful and disarming. We had fun. Everyone at the restaurant encouraged us to have fun. Before our meal, we were told to 'enjoy the ride.' We did. :smile:

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#36 tanabutler

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Posted 25 August 2004 - 04:54 PM

Fun sounds good, and I'm glad to hear it.

#37 martin_kastner

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Posted 27 August 2004 - 02:51 PM

A follow-up question, if I may.  Even with traditional tableware, it's not difficult (for me at least) to end up with food or sauce on my shirt front, or at least on my napkin or the tablecloth.  The new Alinea tableware looks as though it would make spills even easier. Will the tables have white tablecloths? Has the likelihood of customers spilling food or sauce been factored into the overall design?

I think that one might sometimes end up with stains on a shirt not despite but because of using traditional tableware. That was a factor in working on the projects when we had specific dishes to be presented and it was my responsibility to make them at least as safe as traditional tableware.
Later it evolved into a more conceptual approach where we look at a serving concept and both, each our own way, work to address it. I might be fooling myself but I would like to believe that because both the design and the food were developed sort of simultaneously (each with the other in mind), they should be fairly compatible.
I guess people who have experienced food on these utencils would be more qualified to comment on the funcionality.

#38 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 27 August 2004 - 03:33 PM

My wife spends all day, everyday, surrounded by fine art and artists and then comes home and creates her own. I don't even pretend to understand half of what she does or says with or about art, but I emailed her this thread and I thought that her response was pretty interesting (probably makes more sense to some of you, as you no doubt have a better understanding of this stuff than I)

Mrs. Mayhaw 8/27/04

I really like the idea of carrying the art of food to an even more elevated level that involves more senses.  Of course
chefs have been squiggling colored sauces around the plates for a while as well as molding high and with artistic flair.
But these "sculptural" utensils and serving pieces take it into an area that is as different as 2-d paintings are to the best
3-d sculpture.  You can't compare the two, really.  They affect you in different ways. 

Martin Puryear, I think, would be a influence on these designs. 

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#39 chromedome

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Posted 28 August 2004 - 09:08 AM

I wanted to show this to my artist/design junkie wife, but I just get "image not found." :sad: They were there before!

#40 Fat Guy

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Posted 28 August 2004 - 09:11 AM

Working on it.

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#41 docsconz

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Posted 30 August 2004 - 09:02 PM

Step away from the computer for a few days (ok I've been in and out) and see what I've missed! This is an extremely exciting and fascinating project.

While some references to Ferran Adria were made upthread and there are some obvious similarities at least in approach, such as the concept of taller or laboratory, ChefG, you seemed to want to distance yourself from that (at least as far as the serviceware). Is that in fact the case and if so, why?
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#42 chefg

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Posted 31 August 2004 - 07:44 AM

While some references to Ferran Adria were made upthread and there are some obvious similarities at least in approach, such as the concept of taller or laboratory, ChefG, you seemed to want to distance yourself from that (at least as far as the serviceware). Is that in fact the case and if so, why?

I have great respect for Ferran Adria and think what he has done for the world of gastronomy is unprecedented. I feel Alinea will have a unique voice in gastronomic circles as well, but only if we express our own style. The serviceware is the first view of that, and I suspect many of the other facets of Alinea will follow. It is not a conscious effort to run in the opposite direction of the el Bulli team as much as it is a natural course to execute our own vision.
Grant Achatz

#43 docsconz

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Posted 31 August 2004 - 07:50 AM

Thank you Chef for the response. I will say that El Bulli and now Alinea are the two restaurants in the world that I haven't yet dined at that I most wish to. I would love to be able to directly compare for myself their similarities and differences :cool:
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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#44 chefg

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 12:41 PM

This past Thursday Alinea served the public for the first time. We participated in the Harvest Moon Fundraiser event held at the Crate and Barrel headquarters in Northbrook, IL. Proceeds benefited Children’s Memorial Hospital.

In most cases chefs view the situations where they must leave the comfort of their kitchens and feed large amounts of people at a rapid pace to be somewhat less than desirable. I used to be one of those chefs. Losing control over the cooking of the products and presenting food on lesser-quality plateware are not things we are used to. People walking around with a wine glass in one hand, and your dish in the other--while trying to figure out a way to eat it--seemed very removed from the setting that we try to create. Now, we see this setting as an opportunity to develop a new style of service, one that is everything we strive for at the restaurant but presented on a larger scale. The things I viewed as drawbacks suddenly became acceptable challenges.

Martin and I first began to talk about the possibilities about one year ago. He liked the idea of a piece engaging a large number of people at one time. We did a few events while at Trio where we tried to break from the norm of passing out plates. A couple of years ago we balanced forks containing grapefruit cells and grated black truffle on a beam so the guests could just pluck the fork and consume the dish. For the Jean Banchet awards last year, we did the Virtual Shrimp Cocktail in atomizers; 500 of them pushed into crushed ice.

The intent here was to develop a piece that would engage a very large group. Due to the fact the people are walking around at these events, the situation lacks the containing focus and security of the tabletop. The interaction of people becomes a very exciting part of the experience. For this reason our first priority was to create a piece that could serve several people at one time. Twenty people eating within 8 feet of each other was not a typical environment, and that was the point. We could capture the energy that made these events special instead of fighting it.

Posted Image

This is a variation of the antenna concept that Martin developed while I was at Trio. As you can see the food composition is about 66 inches from the floor. We wanted the food to be as close to eye level as possible. In this case Nantucket Bay Scallops with roasted pear, olive oil and licorice. Basically, the wire holding the food pivots downward to adjust to the guest’s mouth level. At that point it is consumed directly off the wire. The wire is then removed, discarded and reloaded with a fresh foodstuff for the next guest. As with all of Martin’s work the piece became very sculptural in appearance. It is hard to imagine the piece without the food and the food without the piece. The overall response was very positive.

Posted Image

On November 16th we will use this piece at the Food and Wine Magazine - MCA event. The food composition will change to Crunchy Strawberry – Foie Gras- Licorice.
Grant Achatz

#45 BakerChick

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 02:24 AM

Thank you, chefg, for posting the explinations of some of your original serving vessels. It will help to be familiarized before going in to eat at Alinea (when the time comes)! I especially like the "hidden food" container. Have there been any new developments concerning the serviceware?

#46 chefg

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 10:09 PM

Thank you, chefg, for posting the explinations of some of your original serving vessels.  It will help to be familiarized before going in to eat at Alinea (when the time comes)!  I especially like the "hidden food" container.  Have there been any new developments concerning the serviceware?

View Post

Yes, there have been several further developments in the serviceware concepts. At this point Martin is in the midsts of developing around 20 concepts for the restaurant. Some of those have already been shown here, but most are still in the concept phase. We will do our best to prevue them when they become available.
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#47 johnder

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Posted 19 November 2004 - 11:43 AM

The serviceware is really amazing, very original. My question -- from most of the photos it seems the consumables are perched rather precariously on the serviceware. Are you worried about the waitstaff being able to transport the items from the kitchen to the tables in one piece?

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#48 noambenami

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Posted 20 November 2004 - 11:50 AM

When I ate at Trio, the food was actually skewered on. I think the skewers have a clever little elbow bend on them to prevent the food from sliding down, although I could be wrong. My skewer was green apple, toro and soy foam, with some crunchy bits on top. :wub:

#49 PurpleDingo99

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Posted 27 November 2004 - 06:32 PM

hi- first time poster

I do some art on the side, and i have to say those are the most original pieces of serviceware i have ever seen. bravo.

Have you considered hanging your peanut butter and jelly (from the food lab thread) from a psuedo-bananna hanger? perhaps a half-inch thick gentle curve from a dome base that would top off in a curl and a clip of some sort that would allow the grapes to be pulled off individually? It would probably be easier to peel the grapes individually than on the vine, so it could be a possibility to create a faux grape stem that would look like a bunch of grapes when the individual grapes are stuck onto the apparatus. There is a good chance that that could save a bunch of production time, athough the effect may not be the same.

#50 GG Mora

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 05:55 PM

Somehow I'd like to see chefg and Adria and Blumenthal and Dufresne and Keller hook up with this guy for some seriously innovative serveware.

#51 tanabutler

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 07:40 PM

Somehow I'd like to see chefg and Adria and Blumenthal and Dufresne and Keller hook up with  this guy for some seriously innovative serveware.

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Let's hope it's not to make one of these. :laugh: :laugh:

Edited by tanabutler, 29 November 2004 - 07:40 PM.

#52 Tonyy13

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 07:51 PM


I was wondering if you have any problems with any "juices" of the food running down the wire and collecting on the base? I have seen many a liquids formed on bottoms of plates, and wonder if this will be or is a challence when using this type of piercing (therefore, allowing juices to escape) instrument. Thanks.
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#53 Ladycake

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 06:26 PM

I am interested in how often you will be changing your menu (how long do the dishes served on these pieces stay on?) as it would affect the cost in development, production, and replacement of these custom items? In reality, do little pieces of these items disappear and make the item unusable? Are your dishwashers modified in any way to accomodate these items (the machines, not the men)? How many of each item do you keep in stock (would it be gauch to ask what the pricetag would be) and how often do you need to restock?

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