Towards an Ecological Dramaturgy of Dining: Plate as Landscape Device

Abrams, Joshua (2020) Towards an Ecological Dramaturgy of Dining: Plate as Landscape Device. Contemporary Theatre Review, 30 (4). pp. 490-508. ISSN 1048-6801


This article explores culinary performances across a range of chef-led restaurants, including Noma, Next, Atelier Crenn and The Fat Duck, exploring how their practices develop a dramaturgy focused on changing narratives around climate change. Considering both the presentation of individual dishes and the ways these are structured within and across meals, I argue that through staging such images and embedding them in storytelling, chefs deploy affective encounter to produce performative challenges for the diner, who is encouraged to engage issues of climate and sustainability. Through the interplay between literal taste and the other senses, chefs including René Redzepi, Dominique Crenn, Bun Lai, Grant Achatz, and Heston Blumenthal frame dining encounters, embracing sociality and narrative. Through creating versions of landscapes on the plate, both in explicit (post)representational imagery and in the relation to the plate itself, these gastronomic performances map the terrain of global food issues as simultaneously visible and digestible, inviting the diner to participate in finding solutions, and calling for attention to the literal tending of the earth. Contemporary chefs refract the classical notion of landscape as a lens through which we understand and see the world, staging dramaturgical questions and posing narratives about relationships between nature and culture, encouraging the diner to question human impact and responsibility to the world, recalling the environment as always already in front of us, but through a range of gustatory encounters, they extend a hand of invitation, reminding us of the need to engage globally through closer sensual engagement and detailed focus.


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