Table Talk @ Design Exchange
A couple months ago, we had the pleasure of attending Design Exchange's Table Talk, a collection of quick-fire presentations about food and design (two of our favourite things) by both restaurateurs and designers alike. As late as this post is, we thought we'd share some of the night's ideas because food is freaking fascinating.
Table Talk was put together to complement Design Exchange's exhibition at the time which was Tapas: Spanish Design for Food so naturally, the speakers touched upon the same subject and its history. "Tapas" comes from the Spanish verb "to cover" since the Spanish used plates to cover the glasses of wine that restaurants put out on their front tables to entice customers to come in, preventing fruit flies from coming near the drinks (or at least that's one theory).
Jamòn and Spring Onion Crespelle, courtesy of Oliver & Bonacini
The first speaker was Chad Roberts, a graphic designer and founder of Chad Roberts Design, who talked about his work with Balzac's and Campagnolo. With Balzac's, inspiration was taken from the grand cafés of Paris while Campagnolo wishes to bring home his Italian heritage; after all, the name does translate to "countryman". To Roberts, location has a huge impact on the story and it was important that as multicultural as Canada is, he wanted to take these cultural and historical significance and somehow make it our own.
Next up was Cherie Stinson, owner of East Side Social but better recognized as an interior designer and TV personality on Food Network's Restaurant Makeover. Her presentation focused on restaurants' interior design and we honestly can't say much other than holy crap, these really are restaurants that we'd die to eat at.
Executive chef at Marben, Rob Bragagnolo graced us with his presence next and spoke about the 12 years he spent living in Spain that very nearly had us just getting up to book the next flight there. He spoke of both past and present culinary customs such as being able to walk into a restaurant and eating whatever and however much you liked and just being charged according to how many toothpicks you've picked up. We personally loved the idea of being able to go to multiple places for a single meal, restaurant-hopping with the same plate(s) as opposed to going to the just the one place for everything from appetizers to dessert. Basically, the entire presentation was a collection of very audible moans from the entire room as he described Spanish food.
One of 3 partners at DesignAgency, Anwar Mekhayech commented that they're "only as good as our last client". It's a value evident in all their work, most noted of which is designing Toronto's Momofuku location with the concept of a spiralling bird's nest.
Amy Rosen is a food and travel writer who will actually have a book out next month called "Toronto Cooks" (we don't know about you but we'll be grabbing a copy asap). She spoke about where food and travel intersect—trying amazing restaurants from around the world inspired people to think about how they can take those incredible meals and re-experience it in their own homes. We're constantly trying to cook food "the way it tasted that one time in that place." No one does this better than Toronto's chefs and as a result, we have a home that lets us travel the globe without leaving the city.
Ex-sous chef of the one and only Gordon Ramsay and current executive chef at Café Boulud, Tyler Sheddon talked about this shift from incredibly ornate food presentation (a representation of people's wealth and status in the 1700-1800s) to "nouvelle cuisine" where everything is stripped down to let the food speak for itself.
Hamid Samad, partner at Commute Design, discussed his work with clients such as Terroni and Patria where he was inspired by hand movements. Commute Design implements wear and tear into their designs and everything is hand done so every part is unique.
Owner of The Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar, and Rhum Corner, Jen Agg ended off the night with the story of how she opened her restaurants and designed them. Her restaurants are designed in such a way that they blend into their surrounding neighbourhood but when you walk in, it's like you've walked into another world. She commented that people often get caught up in all the superficial aspects of designing of a restaurant and forget that you also design your staff (and we completely agree). More than anything though, Jen was a charmer and we bumped all her restaurants to the top of our list after her talk.
Chock-full of new ideas and observations about food and design, we walked away from Table Talk with a renewed ardour for cuisine. Thanks to Design Exchange for hosting the event and to Oliver & Bonacini for providing the tapas!