Interview with Electrolux Design Lab 2012 finalist Christopher Holm-Hansen
Don’t you wish you had the sophisticated palette of a professional chef? The Electrolux Tastee is a taste indicator that is used when cooking to assist the chef in bringing out the flavours in the meal. The Tastee is the shape and size of a regular spoon but with one main difference, The Tastee tastes for you. Using receptors based on the human taste bud the Tastee tells you what you need, what you don’t and maybe even something you would never imagine. Tastee helps you make the perfectly balanced, flavourful meal for you and your family to enjoy.
What was the inspiration for your concept?
Food is an essential part of our life, one of our most basic needs and vital for our wellbeing. But it can be way more than this if a little more effort is put into the cooking. Food, rich in flavours can give us great experiences as well as help create new or revive old memories of moments with family and friends or the atmosphere and sensations from past travels and more. But how do you bring out or enhance the flavours in the dish you are preparing so that you get the most enjoyment when eating it? My experience is that everybody (more than once) has tried to cook a stew, soup or another dish that came out not tasting quite the way it was imagined or maybe even not really tasting of much at all. And it often happens even if we try to season the dish to the best of our abilities with the limited knowledge of the thousands of spices and flavour enhancers that exist. It is therefore from the many personal culinary failures and one too many tasteless dishes that the inspiration for the Tastee originates.
How does your concept fit into the brief: Design Experience?
When asked to describe an experience there is no one correct answer. What is certain is that our senses are affected by experiences. The taste indicator concept seeks to give people an experience that appeals mostly to the sense of taste. By aiding people to enrich the dishes they cook the quality of their meals increase. Flavourful and professionally seasoned food titillates your senses, brings happiness and satisfaction and helps turn ordinary dinners into an experience.
Why would a consumer want to own your concept?
The skill of bringing out flavours in food is usually something we consider to be private for chefs, people who study cooking and those who have been cooking for many years. With Tastee the realm of spices and flavour enhancing techniques becomes available to everybody. Tastee utilizes the five globally accepted taste sensations: saltiness, bitterness, sourness, sweetness and umami. These are used as a means for communication and visualisation of the taste of the dish for the user. On the basis of the current taste profile of the dish the user will be given tips on which ingredients can help to guide the meal towards the perfect or preferred balance. Trying out completely new dishes is no longer as intimidating, because Tastee will give you qualified feedback on how to draw the dish in the right direction. Through continuous use of Tastee the user will be able to build up an understanding of how different ingredients and techniques can season their dishes. Ideally, the users will be able to mix this knowledge with their own sense of taste and cook with minimal use of Tastee.
The consumer research for the project consisted of observations of users during cooking sessions as well as interviews and informal talks with family, friends and professors to get a deeper and well-based understanding of the aspects of cooking that were ripe for improvements. The desire for the ability to prepare a tasty meal is clearly supported by the thousands of new books on cooking by famous chefs, blogs, apps and the countless number of television programs focusing on food that come out every year.
What kind of materials would you use to build your concept?
The body of the Tastee is made from polymer due to its high heat resistance and low heat conductivity. The underside is matte and slightly texturized to secure a good grip and ease of handling. The top is covered with a glossy and sleek surface in order to increase the contrast to the underside and give it a more elegant look. The polymer material is durable and can withstand being cleaned and therefore easier to keep free from bacteria. The bevelled band that curves around the upper edge of the spoon is made from aluminium. This serves as the antenna to transmit the flavour data from the nano taste receptors and also adds a design element. Tastee has built in OLED lighting that activates when in use. The lights let the user know that Tastee is turned on and that information is transmitted from the spoon to the tablet.
What is inspiring you most in the culinary experience?
Watching professionals or seasoned amateur chefs in the kitchen inspires me. It is amazing how they can turn various raw ingredients into a colourful and delicious looking arrangement. But what inspires me the most is when they create food that tastes completely different from what you expect or use ingredients that you would never imagine using yourself.
Who is your favorite designer?
I do not have one favourite designer. I appreciate the simplicity and timeless beauty found in classic Danish and Nordic designs. However, my greatest admiration is found with designers or companies that manage to create beautiful and functional products by intelligently integrating the user, their behaviour and needs into their designs.