Eating is an experience that focuses primarily on one of our senses, but a new restaurant is aiming to change that.
ELE, run by chefs Federico Zanellato and Karl Firla, will be an immersive multisensory dining experience.
The two chefs, joint owners of Leo restaurant in Sydney’s CBD, will rotate between the two restaurants, with at least one chef in each kitchen.
The new restaurant is due to open at the end of March and will be taking over the location previously held by Momofuku Seiobo at The Star in Sydney.
“Our main aim is to get customer to switch off completely from the external world and ultimately take them on a journey where they leave all their worries, all their problems, behind,” Mr Zanellato told Hope 103.2.
“And they are fully immersed into a different experience that involves not only the palate, not only the taste, but other kinds of senses.”
As diners arrive at ELE, they will be taken into three drinking and dining spaces – the bar, the dining room and the chef’s table.
Mr Firla said it will be a new experience for diners in Sydney.
“It’ll just be a completely new experience for everyone and ideally they’re able to come in open minded and willing to sit down and enjoy something different,” he told Hope 103.2.
As part of the dining experience, guests will be moved throughout the restaurant.
“It’s not a static dining experience where you sit down at a table… we will take the guests on a journey,” Mr Zanellato said.
“Our main aim is to get customer to switch off completely from the external world and ultimately take them to a journey where they leave all their worries, all their problems, behind,” – ELE co-founder Federico Zanellato
What is multisensory dining?
Dr Julia Low, a lecturer in Nutrition and Food Technology at RMIT University in Melbourne, said multisensory dining engages all our senses.
“Our senses interplay together to form an experience,” she told Hope 103.2.
To better understand how this works, Dr Low uses the example of eating an apple.
“When you look at apples, you’re not only tasting the apple, you’re actually playing with the apple first, you touch the texture so you know it’s firm,” she said.
“Then you bite on it, you hear the crunch and then you have the sweetness and then the flavour and the smell, and it all comes from this experience.”
Although the concept isn’t new, recent developments in the technology of production have improved this experience.
According to Dr Low, multisensory dining works by playing on our emotions.
Multisensory dining works by playing on our emotions, according to RMIT University’s Dr Julia Low
“Some people, they feel a bit more excited about it, so they are more adventurous people and they rate it higher and like the food more,” she said.
“It may play with how we experience the world really, or how we perceive these emotions; it will, in a sense, enhance or decrease our experience when we’re eating in this kind of experience.”
“(Multisensory dining is about how) our senses interplay together to form an experience,” – Dr Julia Low, lecturer in Nutrition and Food Technology at RMIT University
A different space
The idea for ELE came about when the two chefs were brainstorming ways to change up the famed location in The Star.
“The whole concept started with our idea to bring something different to that space… being such an iconic and well-known and well-documented space,” Mr Zanellato said.
“When we first walked in we said ‘OK, we’ve got to bring something to this space that is not only a change in the menu but we’re going to add some other layers’”.
All about the experience
Chef Firla is hoping diners will come more for the experience than other reasons.
“We want people to come for the experience of ELE as a platform,” he said.
“Not so much because ‘it’s an anniversary and I have to go and eat somewhere’, we want them to come to experience what we’re doing as a product and as an experience.”
Sensory dining experiences are about more than just the consumption of food, according to Mr Firla.
“It doesn’t necessarily need to be about a texture of a product, it can be a mindset as far as shifting the way people think,” he said.
“Being able to deliver a complete story about the way we’re utilising a product from start to finish… there’s going to be a story behind all of this produce.”
ELE’s menu will hero Australian ingredients and producers and will be inspired by the elements of earth, fire, air and water.
“The ingredients are always the hero and then we will try to combine all the rest, such as the visual art, the sounds, all around that ingredient,” – ELE co-foudner Federico Zanellato
“What inspires us the most in our approach to cooking is mainly the ingredients,” Mr Zanellato said.
“The ingredients are always the hero and then we will try to combine all the rest, such as the visual art, the sounds, all around that ingredient.”