On the surface Kitchen Theory is a multisensory gastronomy design studio, creating and hosting experimental, immersive food & drinks experience for public and private events. But for those who have become more familiar with Kitchen Theory a little better over the years, you may know that our mission statement is to improve global wellbeing through innovations in gastronomy. An audacious goal, to say the least, but one the team is committed to. If you are wondering what we mean by this mission; all across the world countries are experiencing unsustainable healthcare and economic burdens as a result of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular, metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders (this list now includes COVID-19) – much of which has been linked to poor diet and lifestyle choices. Research has shown that what, how and when we eat, can play an essential role in the prevention of these illnesses and can significantly influence outcomes in patients during and after therapy. Therefore, our mission is to be a part of the solution; improve public health through nutrition.
To achieve such an audacious goal, our approach has been to understand the relationship we as humans have with food by focusing on its sensory and nutritional aspects.
The sensory relationship focuses on how all five senses work together to form our associations, expectations, judgments, likes and dislikes of food as well as other psychological and cultural factors that may play a role. While the nutritional research is focused on the functional role that food plays in relation to our health and wellbeing.
Over the years Kitchen Theory has forged ties with some of the UK most highly respected academic institutions and imminent scientists to further our understanding and contribute towards research in the fields mentioned above (see below for a list of academic articles). This has allowed us to work with a broad number of experts from fields including experimental psychology, computer science, medical research and clinicians.
So enough about our mission and more about what we are actually doing; as mentioned above there are two main areas of focus. The first, is the psychological and multisensory relationship humans have with food, an area we have been researching for close to 10 years with experimental psychologist Professor Charles Spence (Oxford University). This line of research offers unique insights into:
- How all 5 of our senses work in unison rather than isolation to formulate our perception of flavour.
- How flavour can be modulated or augmented by changing sensory inputs including, colour, shape, taste, texture, sound and aroma.
- How cultural and environmental influences can affect our relationship with flavours, textures, smells.
- How we perceive flavour is uniquely individual both psychologically and physiologically.
- This research is impacting how food experiences are designed in restaurants, onboard flights and even for the development of space foods
- At its core this sensory research is enabling us to design better food experiences which encourage/nudge people towards making healthier, more nutritious and sustainable food choices in schools, hospitals and care homes.
The second aspect of our research is focused on a project called HYPERFOODS, which Kitchen Theory has been working on in collaboration with computer scientist Dr Kirill Veselkov (Imperial College London) since 2018. The HYPERFOODS project focuses on identifying molecules within foods that can potentially prevent and/or fight diseases. The aim is to advance our understanding of the functional/curative aspects of food. As part of this research we are interested in;
- The foods we eat are made up of thousands of bioactive molecules that get digested and metabolised, reacting with other biomolecules in our body and trillions of bacteria in our guts. All of which can impact our health and wellbeing.
- How molecules within the foods we eat interact with pharmaceutical drugs and can have an impact on the effectiveness of these treatments.
- There are six major nutrition categories (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water) which are identified as impacting human health. National nutritional databases track about 150 components from these categories and they appear on most food packaging. Yet, there is growing evidence that thousands of other molecules – including polyphenols, flavonoids, terpenoids and indoles (that are abundant in plant-based foods and all of which belong to the same chemical classes as those found in pharmaceutical drugs) – may help prevent and fight diseases. Most of these compounds still remain largely unexplored by experts, not tracked by regulators, and unknown to the public at large, therefore HYPERFOODS can be seen as exploring the “dark matter of nutrition.”
- There is no one size fits all diet, our gut microbiome, genes and other factors mean that physiologically we are all different.
To learn more about our research into the senses and multisensory flavour experiences click here, for more details on the HYPERFOODS project and the related research click here and to find out more about Kitchen Theory founder, chef Jozef Youssef, click here.