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The Future Of Food With The Institute of Flavourology

Incredible, unforgettable multi-sensory dining experiences with Flavourology

It’s time to go on an edible adventure, as Toast.Life chats to Flavourology‘s Food Director and co-founder Jenny McNeill. We hear how Jenny and her team go about creating incredible, unforgettable multi-sensory dining experiences for brave brands and daring hosts, plus her thoughts on what’s big on the menu this year when it comes to entertaining at home.



The Institute of Flavourology – sounds deliciously exciting doesn’t it? Well let me tell you – it is. Flavourology make ‘edible adventures’; multi-sensory dining experiences strictly for brave brands and daring hosts. Simply put - they do dining differently.

“Our edible adventures are all about taking people on a journey through food. To be a true adventure there needs to be a taste of the unexpected, a narrative holding the experience together with changes of pace and peaks of action, and enough drama to create memorable moments for guests to take away” explains Flavourology’s Food Director and co-founder Jenny McNeill.

“Each experience is designed to perfectly suit the brand or host we are working for. With brands, it’s all about trying to create an environment where diners live the product or service rather than simply being shown it or told about it, and with daring hosts we aim to hit the right note to ensure their guests leaving feeling what they want them to feel – excited, benevolent, comforted, spoilt – it suits a whole range of emotions and objectives.”

Godiva Menu Flavourology

Godiva By Flavourology

Flavourology Canepe Serving

Flavourology Characters

Flavourology’s sister company is the well-known Gingerline, who are known for creating extraordinary immersive dining adventures that pop up in secret and changing locations along the East London Line. Harnessing Gingerline's pedigree for storytelling and mischief, The Institute of Flavourology is filled with designers, performers, chefs and technicians all poised to conjure up awe-inspiring food-centric dining experiences.

“Flavourology was truly born out of market demand. Gingerline sees thousands of diners a month flock to their experiences and many of those people work in marketing, PR or the events world. They started to ask if Gingerline could recreate some of their magic for their brands or clients” Jenny explains.   

And so, after a couple of years of building enquiries, Gingerline’s founders Suz Mountfort and Kerry Adamson had the idea to start a sister company, Flavourology. With Jenny’s background in marketing and event catering, they ran some tester events together before officially launching the company in April 2017. Jenny’s role as Food Director involves designing aforementioned ‘edible experiences’ for Flavourology’s bespoke event clients, and also designing the menus for Gingerline’s long running immersive dining experiences.

“I love that my job keeps me on my toes. Our clients love to give us tricky briefs and are constantly pushing us to innovate” says Jenny.

“We readily accept the challenge and are most fascinated with finding the perfect way to engage our guests in our experiences.”

Before Flavourology, Jenny had what she describes as ‘two lives’ - the first involved a successful 12 year career in marketing, which she then swapped for life as a ‘ski bum’ working in the Alps, which is where she fell in love with food all over again. Jenny eventually returned to the UK and retrained as a chef at Leiths School of Food & Wine, and once graduated she started Ginger Jar Food, a food design and event catering company based in South London, which she had been growing right up until meeting the founders of Gingerline.

“I was a very fussy eater as a child, but I remember getting excited about food for the first time in my early teens. We went for a Chinese meal on Christmas Eve and Peking duck pancakes blew my mind” she recalls. 

“From then I cooked and experimented a little, but it was when I was living in France as a student that I had a proper awakening. A friend’s mother used to invite us for lunch every Sunday and the food was incredible – proper sauces to accompany roasted meats, a whole range of delicious salads and side dishes. And cheese…” 

And now, the edible possibilities that Jenny and her team can create are mind-bogglingly endless. Recently, to celebrate the 275th year of a high-profile law firm, Flavourology was asked to design an interactive and engaging backdrop for their staff event - something different and truly memorable to commemorate a huge milestone. And so, they created a multi-space, immersive evening which was part enchanted forest, part adventure playground, designed to capture the imagination and delight the senses of all who attended. Interactive, immersive areas fused perfectly with cocktails, concept food and performances to create a once in a lifetime celebratory event. The different woodland ‘zones’ included a magical 50sqm waterfall ball pit, storytelling water fairies, a huge central campfire with secret hideaways, a camping ‘mess’ tent, toadstool afternoon tea, a wooden chill out zone and a glow-worm silent disco cave. All enjoyed by a whopping 1000 guests, for just one very special night.

Fairy Garden Canapes Flavourology

Flavourology Canapes

Flavourology Canepe Tray

Flavourology Wonderland Garden

“The creative process differs depending on the product, brand or company we are designing for. With pure daring hosts, how you want the guest to feel is at the centre of the creative process and then the fun starts from there. With a product or brand, it’s a much more complex design process to break down the root components into an immersive experience, which feels like that product or brand in every sense” explains Jenny. 

“We start at the beginning with what you want your guests to think and feel during and after attending your event. Is the event there to alter perceptions of your brand? Is it to raise awareness and social clout by doing something daringly different? Is it there to make your guests feel the most spoilt they have ever felt? The underlying driver sparks the event design process as we add building blocks of food, performance, set and sound design to achieve this through a whole manner of immersive techniques.”

Marshmallowsflavourology

Last year, Flavourology were also asked to bring to life the new Starbucks Cold Craft Coffee for press and invited guests at the product launch, allowing guests to understand the coffee making process and get inside the experience of drinking cold coffee. And so, they created ‘The Cold Craft Coffee Testing Facility’ - an avant-garde, adventurous tasting experience where visitors were taken on an extraordinary sensory exploration of flavour, smell and texture, all evoked by some of Starbucks’ latest cold brews.

Every taste element was explored in isolation through a series of experiments, before seeing how they come together to create each coffee’s complex and full-bodied flavour. In this multi-room adventure, guests were asked to put on boiler suits before being shrunk into coffee beans and asked to climb into a giant coffee bean roaster. The floor of the chamber rotated as they weeded out the bad ‘UV’ beans and ate their decontamination pill. Next, guests climbed into the chilly blast room, designed to reflect the cold press coffee process. Following a blue print on the wall, they foraged for the key elements of their dishes before having to assemble them on a krypton-esque central table.

The final room represented the smooth, frothy top of the coffee, so guests relaxed in fluffy recliner chairs with arms that hugged you, whilst listening to a guided meditation and eating the most comforting food Flavourology could design. To end the adventure, guests were boxed and sent down a parcel shoot before ending up in the post-event experience, where they tasted a coffee and petit four matched to their palate.

Flavourology Senses

Furry Seating Flavourology

Flavourology Sleep

“A truly immersive experience takes you away from your normal reality and into a totally new space. It needs to make you start thinking and feeling that you are truly part of the adventure from what you are eating to what you can see, how you are being interacted with, what you can hear and what you can touch” Jenny explains.

“Inspiration comes from all sorts of sources. We’re lucky in that we can use so many reference points to cause a reaction in our guests, from nostalgic, childhood games to futuristic innovations or perhaps classic literature.”

Flavourology Fish

Flavourology Table Setting

Ice Table Flavourology

At the end of last year, Flavourology created Snö - an edible Scandinavian adventure, designed for foodie groups in search of an alternative to the turkey and tinsel. Diners enjoyed a five course, Scandi-inspired tasting menu, all delivered in Flavourology’s trademark, unexpected style.

“We wanted to hit some notes of festive fun, while also bringing new angles to seasonal produce and ensuring our guests were truly involved with the food” explains Jenny.

“They had to forage for edible herbs, chime their bells and make potions to ward off trolls, cure their own food, feast and share memories and remise around the campfire of our smoked dessert. The pace and tone of the experience was created to give the Christmas crowd enough to engage them, while also allowing them to share stories and chat with their table fellows.”

Soil Flavourology

Experimental Food Flavourology

Flavourology Main Menu

Flavourology Canape Dish

Flavourology Desserts

At another recent Flavourology event, guests were challenged to either chill their canapé over dry ice or smoke it in large bell jars at a ‘Fire & Ice’ station. At another ‘Flavour Combination Exploration Station’ guests were given ice cream and then asked to spin a wheel of risk to see what toppings they had to apply, from bacon jam and marmite salted caramel, to rarebit cheese sauce and freeze-dried raspberry jam. And it was not the first time that Flavourology had used raspberries to create a particularly memorable moment…

“Our first time working together was on a Resident Evil themed event, where we needed to create a dinner party hosted by zombies playing the family from the game” she explains.

“The team came up with courses that looked completely vile but were delicious to eat. The dessert course was a human heart on a platter, which was actually beating before being taken away and killed by the zombies. In reality, it was a gorgeous summer pudding covered in wild raspberry jelly!” 

Flavourology have an outstanding reputation for delivering completely unforgettable events that not only dazzle and thrill with imagination and immersivity, but that also taste completely delicious and pulsate with sensory stimulation. If a brief inspires them, they will delve into their immersive arsenal and use flavoursome morsels and daring techniques to create unexpected, unconventional and totally joyful experiences, that provide a sense of escapism like no other. But with such expectations, do Jenny and her team feel the pressure to create something new and wondrous every time?

“Each experience doesn’t have to 100% new or different, but it does need to totally suit the feeling you are trying to create for a diner at any one point. For example, for Starbucks we used a simple, delicious risotto to fit in with a room designed for supreme comfort. It was the most flavoursome risotto, with coffee, Parmesan, chorizo and basil, that you will ever taste but in that instance the food wasn’t about whistles and bells, it was about enhancing a feeling of being safe and nourished” Jenny explains.

“The interesting and memorable notes come from layering our experiences with things to ignite multiple senses, and send guests on a journey they won’t forget.”

Art Event Flavourology

Flavourology Actors 2

Flavourology Actors

Flavourology Dessert Theatre

FLAVOROLOGY: WHAT’S ON THE MENU THIS YEAR

  • Keep it Simple: My advice on what should be big this year is to keep it simple at home. Last NYE was shin of beef chilli, piles of build your own taco ingredients and ice cream for dessert. If I have more time to do still love to push the boat out though, I’ll ask my diners to pick a continent and try and find inspiration from there.

  • Support Local: Support local suppliers and let them do the hard work in producing or sourcing amazing ingredients, which don’t need much home enhancing to make your meal incredible. From artisan cheesemakers to charcuterie producers, brewers and neighbourhood butchers sourcing meat from single estate farms, there’s so much to discover. This approach also gives you more chance to enjoy your guests and the food along the way!

  • Food Is The Experience: Food is the thing that ties everyone together in a collection experience. Especially if people are sitting down, when you feed and nurture people they also give you their attention more readily, allowing you to immerse them more fully in the adventure.

  • Thinking Outside The Box: We’d love to work towards doing something inspired by one of the famous London museums, taking historical references and creating something magical with the backdrop of incredible exhibitions or artefacts. Be it fashion at the V&A or sarcophagus at the British Museum, I find historical and anthropological references inspirational.

If you’d like to work with The Institute of Flavourology, on your next event you can find more information and contact details on their page in Toast.Life’s Little Black Book.  

 

Posted in Spotlight

by Sophie Farrah
on on 11 February 2019

  catering, event food, party planning, the future of food

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