The Future of Personalized Gastronomy
Our Food, Empathy and Design correspondent Lotte Meeuwissen is based in Barcelona and shares her passion throughout Spain. She recently started collaborating with Basque Culinary Center and interviewed Estefanía Simón-Sasyk, Usune Etxeberria and Daniel Riveong about their latest event “Towards Personalized Gastronomy: Euskadi 2050”. This event was initiated by Project Gastronomia, a global network of culinary enthusiasts that reflect with an innovative mind on the future of our food systems.
After holding events in London and Copenhagen in 2018, Project Gastronomia’s latest event of the year focused on their home of Euskadi, Basque Country. The two-day event brought together multidisciplinary perspectives from AI experts to public health experts and researchers to business leaders to explore the future of Personalized Gastronomy in the Basque Country. As a recap of the event they created a report with engaging ideas towards a future of Personalized Gastronomy which can be found here.
What is “Personalized Gastronomy”?
Personalized Gastronomy is the next revolution on what we eat and how we eat it. It empowers diners to take a proactive attitude towards their health and enjoyment through a new comprehension of the unique characteristics of their bodies.
As discoveries in Personalized Gastronomy continue, it fosters a new way to think about how we design food experiences and approach nutrition with precision. There are many examples that tap into the concept of Personalized Gastronomy that are being closely studied nowadays. For instance, one research found that given a person’s particular clinical parameters, dietary history, physical activity, and – most interestingly – gut microbes, each person’s blood sugar level would respond differently to certain foods. This means that based on personal and microbiome features we can accurately predict an individual’s glucose response, which in turn, enables short-term personalized diets that lower post-meal blood sugar levels. Diving deeper into science has enabled us to establish new understandings of our body. Whereas conventional thinking would say that ice cream is more likely to raise your blood sugar levels that sushi, science reveals that for some people this is not the case.
"In a future scenario towards Personalized Gastronomy, we will be able to leverage all the knowledge and technology to know ourselves better"
The term “Personalized Gastronomy” suggests to have a focus on the revolution of the individual. In what sense do you think it can have an impact in the reinforcement of communities?
Personalized Gastronomy aims to understand the interpersonal differences among individuals (based on genetic and microbiota profile, taste and preferences, socio-cultural specifics, etc). We want to create novel solutions based on this knowledge, not only for nutrition but for all social aspects that are related to gastronomy.
In a future scenario towards Personalized Gastronomy, we will be able to leverage all the knowledge and technology to know ourselves better, to optimize our health and also to connect and create communities in a more dynamic way. It is known that food can bring us together, but very specific or strict diets can also isolate us. So what if we could find other people around the world that share the same particularities? It could build new communities to make us talk and connect with others.
In summary, Personalized Gastronomy is not only about the “what we eat” but values equally the “how we eat”. We believe that broadening knowledge about our bodies can help fight all kinds of social stigma and ultimately create new spaces for people to find and build new social structures.
What new food traditions could “Personalized Gastronomy” evolve?
Is tacos al pastor, with its roots in Lebanese cooking, a traditional mexican food? Is tortilla de patata, which uses the South American potato, a staple of spanish cuisine? Yes.
The point being is that we unconsciously may have a very static idea of what tradition means in terms of origin and the time it takes to acquire its cultural status, but actually it is a very dynamic social happening. We believe that the evolution of food traditions influenced by Personalized Gastronomy will take from the current global trends as well as it will be inspired by looking back into ancient food processing methods. For instance, we might be looking into a global pool of food products that are processed with a myriad of techniques from any culture on the planet. When combining this with the developed understandings of the microbiological components of these foods, we can ultimately provide precise nutrition to groups of individuals that share similar sets of characteristics and needs. In that sense, traditional foods may look like the current ones but hold a universe of difference within a bite!
What is the role of (Food) Designers in moving towards a future of Personalized Gastronomy?
We believe that food designers can leverage all the elements around the food experience for new food acceptance from a multisensory perspective. However, we believe food designers will also have to broaden their toolkit to the microbiological world to cater to the needs of the consumers of tomorrow, those who benefit from Personalized Gastronomy.
Estefanía Simón-Sasyk is a chef researcher at BCCInnovation, the R&D department of Basque Culinary Center. She runs Project Gastronomía, a global network of food enthusiasts that reflect in different, creative ways about the future of food.
Usune Etxeberria is a PhD in Food Science, Physiology and Health. She works as a researcher in the Gastronomy and Health field in BCC Innovation
Daniel Riveong is a Research Fellow at the Qazaq Research Institute for Futures Studies and a member of the Association of Professional Futurists.