Mad About Saffron
What if saffron was an experience? ‘Secret Saffron’ explores this question through analogue and digital technologies, using simple glass and porcelain tools for measuring saffron in the kitchen. The project was designed to be shown during Milan Design Week 2020. Our correspondent Yue Liu talks to Stefano Citi, co-founder of TourDeFork about creating an interactive food project in the middle of a pandemic.
The ‘Secret Saffron’ project is a collaboration between your TourDeFork design studio and the saffron company Zafferano del Cardinale, how did it come about?
Raffaella Fargion, the CEO of Zafferano del Cardinale is well known in the Milanese food scene for the quality of her product, which is widely used by both popular trattorias and Michelin star chefs. We’ve known each other for a while through common acquaintances and started talking about building an interactive experience around saffron towards the end of 2019, with our sights set on the Salone del Mobile 2020.
How has the epidemic affected the design development of this project? Was the design something you had envisaged before the lockdown, or did it emerge from the situation?
The epidemic has had a huge impact on the traditional idea of sensorial food experiences. Collectively participating in a tasting, touching, smelling experience is the last thing we can do at the moment and therefore the entire process needed to be re-thought. The Secret Saffron Kit was born precisely from this need, we were no longer able to build a communal experience and therefore started working towards creating a personalised one for the home.
“Nothing can substitute our need for interaction and food will always be the catalyst for that.”
Have there been any challenges in working collaboratively for you during a lockdown?
Lockdowns are tough and alienating, but they offer the opportunity to drive creativity and thanks to all these digital communication tools we have, exchanging ideas remotely has never been easier. The real challenge has been the manufacturing process, we have had quite a few setbacks working with glass and porcelain artisans, getting samples and setting up production has been a nightmare. Hopefully we are on track now and should have our kits ready for Christmas, fingers crossed.
An interesting aspect of this culinary kit is that the design has been influenced by two very different situations. How did the idea take shape?
The idea was born as an evolution of the interactive experience we had originally thought of for the infamously cancelled Salone del Mobile 2020. So instead we decided to create the Secret Saffron Kit: a box made of three parts: a glass diluter, a porcelain tip-tap doser and a website. The tools allow users to easily measure and dose the correct quantities of spice, while telling the fascinating story of saffron and revealing some of its secrets – like where and how its cultivated, its history and health properties.
What opportunities can you see for the future of food experience design within this new normality?
The pandemic has accelerated the expansion of a whole series of industries and opportunities, whilst completely devastating others. At the moment people are stuck at home, waiting to be entertained and this is a great opportunity to deliver small culinary experiences that can educate and entertain people in the safety of their own homes. But I really hope this does not become the new normal, nothing can substitute our need for healthy, physical, social interaction and food will always be the catalyst for that.
Interview by DIFD correspondent Yue Liu.