Can Design Disrupt our Experience with Hospitality?

Meet Jozef Youssef, the experimental chef of London’s famed Kitchen Theory, who uses science and design to change the way we perceive food.


Jozef Youssef wants to change the way we eat, using the psychology behind the way we experience food to make nutritional, sustainable food more appealing. He left a career as a chef at famed restaurants such as Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and The Connaught in 2011 to found Kitchen Theory, which he describes as creating engaging, multisensory gastronomy experiences that are driven by research conducted with Professor Charles Spence at Oxford University.

The idea is to translate aspects of the research into nine-course educational dinners, and to find ways to make us want to eat food that’s both good for us and for the environment – think cricket-filled brownies based on the finding that people are more open to entomophagy (the act of eating insects) with sweet, rather than savory, dishes.

“The research is the less flashy part of what we do, but it’s also the most important,” he says. “We test our ideas from the lab on real-life diners at our events. Obviously, we don’t treat them like lab rats, but we do try to collect little amounts of data to confirm research we’re doing in the lab.”

From dishes served with earplugs to surreal plates accompanied by a soundscape, it’s all part of Kitchen Theory’s mission to disrupt the traditional hospitality experience. In doing so, Youssef gives diners an alternative experience that takes them on a journey – and, along the way, teaches them something about how they perceive and understand the act of eating. It’s also a good excuse to play with your food.