Weird and wonderful immersive dining experiences in pop-up spaces have become très à la mode in recent years. Leading the way in performative eating, food design and installation is Dutch designer Marije Vogelzang. Over the last decade she has amassed an impressive and tasty looking portfolio, featuring design experiences such as a pasta sauna, and my favourite, a dough “tablecloth” that cooked under angle poise lamps, which the diners ripped through to get at their meal. We had to speak to her to find out more.
Hi Marije – you’ve been referred to as the ‘Great Dame’ of eating design. When and why did you start experimenting with food and design?
Over 10 years ago when I was still a student at the design academy in Eindhoven (NL) I started experimenting with food in reference to funerals and funeral rituals. I made a whole white funeral dinner made with naturally white food (white is the colour of death in many cultures). I found out that food is a fantastic material for me to work with, and the emotional importance of food wasn’t at that point being explored by designers. And still isn’t to its full potential!
Did you study art and design or do you have a culinary background?
I’m not a chef. I trained to be a product designer but I do have to say my education was very much influenced by the emerging idea of conceptual design. So basically I was more of an ideas-maker. Designs could also be services, rituals and actions. In that sense food suits very well to this kind of thinking. I like the idea that food is ephemeral and will disintegrate shortly after producing it. I love the idea that my designs turn into shit.
Eating and food often involve rituals, traditions and even performance. Is this something you embrace in your projects?
Yes, I think this is very important. My designs need to be eaten; my design would not be finished if it wasn’t eaten in the end. And the person eating it is part of the experience.
How long do you spend planning an eating experience?
This could take months but sometimes just a few days. It really depends on many factors. Most ideas I get in the shower.
If you could design an eating experience for anyone throughout history, who would it be and why? What would you do?
Maybe I would design one for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. An open air dinner that’s constructed like a musical piece and that you would have to eat dancing.