Putting thought and sensibility into food, and taking customers on a "dining journey" is where the future of fine dining lies, according to top chefs speaking at The Restaurant Show today.
Restaurant magazine editor William Drew was joined by Jason Atherton, Henry Harris from Racine and food writer Stefan Gates in a panel debate on the future of fine dining at the show's Centre Stage this afternoon.
During the discussion, Atherton and Harris agreed that at the core of any food trend or direction must be a true understanding of what is being achieved and why, coupled with careful consideration of the approach chosen.
Atherton told BigHospitality that Pollen Street Social, which will launch in February, will try to set a new trend by reinventing the dessert bar, a restaurant feature that he describes as having been a "failure around the world" in the past.
"I think it's a wonderful idea but in the past dessert bars have been unsustainable," he said. "Who goes out for dinner to a dessert restaurant? I hope to set a new trend, and if i can make this work then dessert bars can be a place to help raise the profile of pastry chefs in the industry. There's only six seats so hopefully it's a foolproof concept."
The former Maze chef went on to say that the future of molecular gastronomy, or "modern cuisine as chefs prefer to call it", is all in the technique, not the title.
“No chef actually wants it to be called molecular gastronomy, they all hate that word. So the future is not in the word but in the technique of modern cuisine. And when this style ends, another will begin,” he said.
As a seasoned fine dining customer, Gates said the future of the sector was about taking diners on a "journey" through food.
“I’m bringing my money to you and I want you to take me on a journey, and to do it a hell of a lot better that I’d do it at home," he told the audience. "As long as it’s done with motivated staff and it works, then I’ll buy into it.”
Challenge and involve customers
According to Harris, the key is to challenge customers and their preconceptions surrounding food.
“What people are looking for now is the thought that goes into food. There has to be strength, power and integrity – the future is very much in that direction,” he said.
“People want real sensibility in the preparation of food so that it challenges their perception of the ingredient. That’s where fine dining will go.”
Atherton said that his team of chefs is already toying with a new way to involve customers more in the ingredients and the meal preparation.