The Magic Dinner

“The thought . . . called up the flavors of an elaborate and bold cuisine, . . .  an incomparable experience.”  – Italo Calvino, Under the Jaguar Sun 

How often does a friend or someone from work ask you to book a table in a nice restaurant? Often. It’s easy, right? We all know that good food is tasty, healthy, fresh and has very specific flavours and textures, unmistakable colours and scents…

These days we go to a restaurant to have a different experience, to taste different foods, to experience gratifying moments, not only through taste but also and above all through sight. Eating is a complete sensory experience that embraces all five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing.

Light enters the story

Sight is the first sense involved in the meal experience because we see the food before we eat it. Light enhances everything that is presented to our eyes, from the food to the overall atmosphere of the restaurant, with the aim of seducing the customer.  

7.00pm: time for dinner

I enter the restaurant with a friend. I don’t have to impress him; we both want to spend a relaxing evening with good food and good wine. At the entrance, a young woman awaits us behind a tall dark counter. The lamp built into the counter allows her to read my name on the reservation list.

The wall behind the counter has wallpaper with a pattern of green foliage. The light above washes the wall and picks up all the shades of green. The trees and the vines seem to come to life.

The host takes us inside to our table. A welcoming atmosphere is produced by the diffused light inside the room. Wall lights have been placed to accentuate the different materials on the walls and emphasise the rhythm in the space.

We are seated at the table. A little suspension lamp is hanging over the centre of the table. The warm colour of the light, the low light intensity, the sharp angle, and its ability to render colours create a perception that enhances the quality of the gastronomic experience. The red wine in the crystal goblet and the sautéed vegetables with balsamic vinegar already have a flavour before we taste them.

The right type of lighting plays a fundamental role in the relationship between food and us: light helps to communicate more effectively the sight, the smell, and the emotional connection with the food. This enhances the quality of the gastronomic experience.

Have you ever cried in front of a cake?

It must be because of the light!


About Maria Favoino

Maria Favoino, Creative director of 18Degrees, Specialist Lighting Design consulting based in London & a member of Women in Lighting. Maria specialises in combining her skills, gained from 10 years of experience in architecture, with the specific application of light in the built environment. Light has always been at the centre of her research and professional growth. Maria’s projects are characterised by the composition of light and the synthesis of pattern, rhythm, symmetry, balance, contrast and proportion.
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