Nouvelle Cuisine Revisited
by Jessica Walters
The San Francisco-based international design collective Miam-Miam
has launched their second wave of innovative food sharing concepts and reinvented
their website to allow visitors to more clearly understand their vision for modern
day food-sharing. As Miam-Miam revisits nouvelle cuisine--the term coined in the
1970s by journalists Henri Gault and Christian Millau to describe the dramatic
changes occurring in the preparation of restaurant food-they focus on the
shifting in diners' perception of what it means to share food with one another.
The design collective brings to life the idea that it's not only how food is prepared,
but more importantly, how food is shared, served, and enjoyed. According to lead
designer and co-founder, Nicolas Denhez, Miam-Miam is the "essence of playing
with your food. We want to reintroduce people to the concept of using meals, or
'food-sharing' as a way to relax, entertain, and bond with friends and family."
The initial concept for what later became affectionately known
as Miam-Miam-French for "yum yum"-was incubated during a
3-month stint when Nicolas Denhez and Bruno Constans were colleagues at Lunar
Design.Inspired by the prolific dining opportunities in San Francisco, brainstorming
ideas for innovative ways to capitalize on this "foodie" culture became
a favorite passion.
Denhez, French-born senior industrial designer at Lunar, was always captivated
with anything to do with the enjoyment of food, whether haute cuisine or local
street fare. His ability to quickly conceptualize and visually depict his unique
ideas for food games, whether geared toward swank clubs, teen hangouts, or family
affairs, was equally met by Constans' strong engineering experience. Eventually,
a third member was added to the mixformer Design Center classmate Philippe
Vahe--advanced design manager for Decathlon, who through his strong 3D expertise
brought to life the physical aspect of the conceptual products.
||Although the French
trio invented the Miam-Miam concept in person, the ongoing design, development,
launch of the brand, and now initial prototyping has been an entirely virtual
experience. All three collective members currently work full-time in design consultancies
around the world and have learned to become expert at working with multiple clients,
in remote locations and across time zones. This translates into communication
solely via email, PowerPoint presentations, renderings, 3D CAD, and teleconferencing-no
Miam-Miam has used these tools and potential restraints to their advantage. One
evening Denhez renders a product in San Francisco, which is then immediately received
by Vahe in France to complete the 3D CAD. By the next morning, Denhez has received
a completed CAD in his email in-box and the cycle continues once again as he forwards
it on to Constans in Switzerland to prepare for an upcoming conference call. The
team has discovered untold efficiencies in using time zones and long-distance
project management skills to leverage their virtual team.
As is the nature of design consultancies, the collective members
are accustomed to working within tight deadlines, quickly creating multiple concepts,
and expressing ideas efficiently and to the point. They use these same practices
to present concepts to one another via electronic presentations, without ever
needing to sit in the same room and spend a lot of time describing concepts verbally.
They have also discovered the great value in using 3D tools to accelerate the
design process. Although 3D tools are not typically utilized for tableware-dishes
and glasses have been designed the same way for centuries, through sculpture and
prototyping--the team has found it to be a key area in which they can innovate
the design process and immediately see the value of any given concept. Once Vahe
models a concept in 3D, Denhez and Constans can see the surfaces, spin it around,
and get a feel for the product without ever having to make a costly model too
soon in the process.
According to Vahe, "The primary advantage of having realistic renderings,
created virtually, is that we can efficiently approach prototypers with already
prepared 3D surface files. Working in the design industry, we are in constant
contact with talented professionals, such as model makers, engineers, and prototypers.
This has really helped us gain exposure to interested partners and vendors, and
to quickly get our innovative food-sharing products to market.
Miam-Miam has also leveraged their experience in having worked in Silicon Valley
on high-tech products for niche markets. They have taken the knowledge and tools
acquired in creating these specialized high-tech products to now design more mainstream
products for food sharing. They are accustomed to achieving a quick turnaround
time from ideation to industrialization in just a few weeks or months. Bruno Constans,
fellow Miam-Miam member and product engineer for Ebel, comments, "We're now
applying this aggressive process to tableware, which allows us to create a greater
number of successful concepts and release new products each season. It's really
made a difference both in cost and time savings."
Rather than immediately manufacturing all the products within
one specific material, the collective purposely created a wide range of products
with the ability to utilize many different materials, whether ceramic, plastic,
or elastomer. As witnessed on their website, www.miam-miam.org, the products convey
a certain playfulness and distinct "miam" message. Miam-miam also designed
a virtual restaurant that serves to feature the products and continues to help
change the mindset toward how food is savored and beverages are imbibed and enjoyed.
All the products and the restaurant concept are featured on their revised website
as a "magic show" for potential investors and interested parties.
Through its innovative new products, Miam-Miam continues to revisit the idea of
nouvelle cuisine, with a new definition--how food is shared and enjoyed.
Jessica Walters is a consultant who uses experiential learning
and self-awareness to help her clients tap into their own creativity and be more
innovative at work and play.