Right now, Superblue is offering a mixed-reality experience that is equal parts Michelin-star tasting menu and guided virtual reality buffet. It’s a co-production with the Open Arts division of Facebook’s parent company, Meta, which reportedly downsized its art and design branch earlier this month.
People who purchase tickets ($58 during the day, $200 for an evening sitting) will be led into a futuristic dining room, designed by the artist and founder of Aerobanquets, Mattia Casalegno. Each diner will slip on a Meta Quest 2 VR headset before being served a specially created menu of amuse-bouches designed by chef Chintan Pandya.
In the virtual world, guests will be guided by the dulcet voice of Top Chef host Gail Simmons, while the flavors and textures of the bites are rendered before their eyes and ears. The experience may be hard to imagine, but that, in a way, is the point.
“How do you visualize taste? What is the shape of spice? What is the color of flavor?” Casalegno said in an interview, describing his project. “I conceived Aerobanquets RMX as a total feast for the senses, a multi-sensory journey, a tool to reprogram all our perceptive expectations.”
That’s no small dish.
The experience was inspired by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Futurist Cookbook. Published in 1932, the cookbook is a collection of surreal recipes that ponder what a person’s relationship to food will be like in the future. Casalegno was an early adopter of mixed reality, and with Pandya, he’s using The Futurist Cookbook as a springboard to investigate the relationship between technology and food, drawing heavily on the book’s utopian sensibility.
The menu includes at least some ingredients that visitors will find familiar, though many are unlikely to be cooked using methods practiced by Julia Child. There will be a “mousse of roasted hopes,” “a pearl that tastes like the first time you ever bit your lip,” and a tart that evokes the “whistle that the wind makes through a door lock on a cold autumn afternoon.” The meal will be accompanied by an original score by the electronic composer Martux_M, who recently performed at Sonar festival in Barcelona.
Casalegno first conceived of Aerobanquets in 2018 with the help of a fellowship grant from the Chronus Art Center. The project initially appeared in Shanghai in collaboration with Flavio G. Carestia, a chef at the Toscanini restaurant in Amsterdam. The following year, it was presented at the James Beard house in New York City.
Since then, the technology has improved significantly, especially when it comes to the headsets being able to replicate movements made in the physical world. To capitalize on this, Casalegno and his production studio, Flavor Five Studio, designed site-specific, custom-made furniture to make the experience as dynamic and fluid as possible.
“It’s artists like Mattia Casalegno, by diving fearlessly into the metaverse and challenging its boundaries, who evolve our understanding and capabilities in this new frontier,” said Tina Vaz, head of Meta Open Arts.