Behind The Dish tries a new recipe for experiencing gastronomy in VR. Its recipe mixes provocative stories of women chefs with a 3D food spectacle of gigantic and highly detailed food images while capturing the gestures of the chefs, the smoke, the dressing. And alongside the viewer is introduced to understand the local tradition and histories that led to the invention of a specific recipe. As such, it succeeds in offering a fresh perspective on how to tell food-stories that will be remembered.
In the three series, the viewer is invited to almost step into the food creation plates of top chefs; and while watching closely the spectacle and science of some special cuisines, one can meet the women chefs that reveal their stories. The roots of the foods are reflected in the roots of women chefs and the broader social and historical context. And you can experience it at SXSW.
“A Twisted Soul – Behind the Dish” is the story of Soul Food made by Deborah VanTrece, an African-American lesbian chef. Here you can also explore former slave plantations in the American South to learn about the origins of Soul Food and observe how VanTrece interprets its classics, from fried chicken to collard greens and mac and cheese.
“The Starred Chef – Behind the Dish” documents the story of Hélène Darroze, one of the rare women to earn the highest culinary distinction: Three Michelin Stars. Learn about her rise to the pinnacle of gastronomy, from her beginnings in a family-owned restaurant in the South of France to her own starred restaurants in London and Paris.
“The Sushi Master – Behind the Dish” shares the inspiring story of Yumi Chiba, one of the rare female Sushi Masters in Japan. From Mount Fuji to wasabi fields, explore the rich culture and roots of her signature dish: traditional Edomae sushi plates.
Techvangart wish to take a glimpse into the creation process, so we talked with Emmy-nominated director, Chloé Rochereuil, co-founder of TARGO, an award-winning VR studio specialized in documentaries and non-fiction experience, about the technological innovations, the composition of storylines, future of VR documentaries, but also her first food she prepared 🙂
TVA: Why did you choose the topic of food in VR?
Chloé Rochereuil: We really want to address mainstream audiences, and have documentaries to be available for everyone, and have topics that appeal to everyone. And food is one of the most mentioned topics in the world, everybody’s interested in food.
We always wanted to do a documentary on food, but we didn’t really have the right technology. With VR it is really great to experience environments, but with the 360 camera, you can’t really see details and images in close-ups. And we were frustrated because we knew we wanted to do something on food, but we didn’t have the right technology to do it. And we decided to do something on food when we found the right technology.
In the experience the Food looks gigantic, and we do that thanks to a new camera we developed, which is doing hypostereo. And the principle is very simple: it makes the distance between your eyes smaller, so you feel that the things in front of you have a greater scale.
TVA: Indeed, the images of food are truly amazing. I think the first that I saw were huge fungi, mushrooms, and then all those appetizing dishes were so interesting, also that you could capture all those small details and all the hand gestures like when chefs are decorating the food. It looked spectacular.
Chloé Rochereuil: Thank you for that! It was really our goal to make food look like it is really art. We wanted to have these gigantic dishes that almost look like landscapes and it’s really a new perspective on food that you’ve never seen before, as if you were the size of a peanut. I think that it was bringing something new to the way we look at food, so I thought that there was something to do here.
TVA: Indeed, it is true, and it was this contrasting view, that sometimes, you felt so small compared to the food, that you could feel you re almost on the plate (but, you weren’t), and then in contrast it was during the meeting with the main character, the viewers was always on the same level. And this was created to incite dialogue or more to position the viewer as a confidante ?
Chloé Rochereuil: Definitely, once we had this technology and this amazing way to show food, the idea was not just to show the food. The idea was to tell stories, strong stories of Female Chefs who are always facing incredible challenges in an industry that is widely male dominated.
So we wanted to tell stories and use food as a way to connect with these characters more. And you are right, when you are in front of these gigantic dishes, you really feel this connection to the environment you saw before.
It was also a way to get into the daily life of the chefs, and then create this intimate connection with them.
I think it’s a good balance between 360° environments and macro shots on the dishes. It was hard to find the right balance between the two but once we had it, it was really something that worked well to just tell the stories of the chefs and connect more with them.
TVA: Why did you focus on this specific mix of storylines- the American/ French /and Japanese Chefs?
Chloé Rochereuil: Our starting point was to appeal to everyone who is interested in food to be able to experience different kind of food and stories from all over the world.
So we wanted to feature different types of food traditions all over the world. So we picked three different stories of women and the idea was also to show that even if you’re in Japan, in the US or in France, the challenges are quite similar when you are a female chef wanting to succeed in the industry.
Even if they are not living in the same country, they share the same problems and challenges.
We also wanted to put a spotlight on the fact that these inequalities are kind of universal around the world. Sexism is everywhere, and female chefs are facing the same kind of challenges in all countries.
Overall, the idea was to show different kind of food, different kinds of stories, and highlight the fact that being a female chef in a male dominated industry is kind of the same burden all over the world…
TVA: What prevailed in the construction of the storyline? I noticed that in the case of all three characters and stories, you mixed biographical information with anthropological, historical facts – places where the black movement, places of slavery, and so on – also elements from the local ecosystem of local productions.
Chloé Rochereuil: There are three different aspects in the storylines, which are intertwining during the documentary.
The first one is telling the stories of the chef.
The second one is telling the story of their food.
And the third one is telling how this specific type of food is rooted in the local cultures and traditions.
For the episode on the Soul Food Chef for example, it was obvious that we had to feature those historic restaurants and speak about the Civil Rights Movement because the origins of this type of food is the civil rights movement is the story of black communities in the US, so we had to talk about this.
Providing historical facts, and putting the viewers in these historic locations also allows you to understand the journey of the chef and why they do what they do now. So we had to combine all these elements within the storyline, because it helps you understand the story of the chef.
And also it’s interesting to learn about ‘soul food’ or about culture in Japan. We wanted to tell the stories of the dishes, from local ingredients to the planting.
TVA: Because you are specializing in VR documentaries, how do you see the future of VR documentaries – in a world where social media can document our lives…?.
Chloé Rochereuil: Compared to traditional film, VR is really helpful to gain attention from the viewers because now when you’re looking at a documentary on a traditional screen, you’re usually also doing something else, (using your phone for example).
But with the VR headset, you are completely inside the story, you don’t have other temptations. That’s something we are lacking today, having moments where you’re able on focusing on just one thing. And VR does that. Doing VR documentaries are almost something natural for us. People usually think that virtual reality is disconnected from the real world, and dive into alternative realities.
But, there is something very strong and very powerful with VR – it’s the ability to bring you to different parts of the world, understand stories, and do things that you would have never done before. For example, most of us would never go inside the kitchen of a sushi master in Japan. VR documentaries really allow you to connect with our world. And that is what I love – it’s extremely powerful to just immerse you into the real world and show you things in a very exclusive and powerful way.
I think that if it’s done well, and if we keep pushing the technology, the storytelling and just the creativity around this medium, VR is such a powerful medium to tell stories. And it’s what we do at Targo, we are trying to imagine new stories, new technologies, new things that will really make a difference in VR.
TVA: And related to interactivity, many times VR experiences have moments of interactivity. Do you think this is proper for documentaries as well, have you taken into consideration and decided that it fits more the storylines without it?
Chloé Rochereuil: At SXSW, we present two experiences: Behind the Dish, and JFK Memento, which is fully interactive, in 6DOF, so you are able to move within the environment. Interactivity is something we definitely want to explore, and there is a huge potential for interactive documentaries.
The reason why we didn’t want to do this kind of content before is that I think that technology was not there yet. For documentaries, there’s the need for seeing real things, detailed environments, and seeing people talking and live action. And when you want to have the interactivity, you can’t have all these details, in this realistic feeling of really being there.
So, interactivity is something we’re exploring in “JFK Memento” – a historic documentary on the assassination of JFK. In this piece we worked with traditional archives, films and photos and re-projected them like in the historic locations.
I think interactivity works well with historic documentaries, because it’s all about remembering and being back in time. But for documentaries happening now, it would have been hard to do it in an interactive way because we want to be in the fields in Japan, we want to be in the south of France, in the kitchens of the chefs, and these are sequences and life moments that we can’t capture in an interactive way. But, interactivity is coming, the technology is not there yet, but we definitely are very much interested in interactivity.
XR Experience Program present “JFK Memento” and ”Behind The Dish” on March 12, 13 and 14 between 11:00am—6:00pm in the Congressional Ballroom at Fairmont at SXSW Festival
TVA: And then smell and taste would come, too… for the dishes 🙂
Chloé Rochereuil: Yes, I agree, it can be frustrating not being able to taste the sushi 🙂
TVA: And related to SXSW, any expectations?
Chloé Rochereuil: We’ve been there also previous year, it was great, and we are pretty excited to go there. And one of the best things with the festivals is showcasing your piece and being able to talk with the people and have feedback. In VR, people are not putting comments under videos, and it is hard to get feedback from real people. Festivals are always good moments to just share with people and be able to talk about the pieces, understand what they like or didn’t like. And, as we have JFK Memento, in the competition, maybe we are going to win the award. But at SXSW it is always a great moment to catch up with the XR communities, media creators, and also to watch amazing pieces. So it’s always a really great moment of creativity!
As we have become accustomed at the end of the interview, TECHVANGART asked some SHOT-Crazy Questions
TVA: What was the first dish you prepared yourself?
Chloé Rochereuil: Ah, good question. I think it’s tiramisu because my mother was doing an incredibly good tiramisu and I think I helped her do it when I was a child.
TVA: When you filmed, who was the main ‘food-tester’ from your crew?
Chloé Rochereuil: Well, actually, we all tasted the different kinds of foods with the chefs… because we had to :). And also because most of the food that was prepared for the filming, would have been thrown away, so we tasted it. And it was pretty amazing.
One great moment was being at the three Michelin star restaurant in London, and I’ve never experienced a Michelin star restaurant before. And it was incredibly good, I think it is even better when it’s warm – we tasted the food, after the filming, when it was already cold.
But it was absolutely delicious. So yes we all tasted the food, and we were very lucky to do it. And also it was great to be in the backseat of these kitchens, it was a great experience doing this series.
TVA: Behind the Scenes of Behind the Dish? Maybe, something unexpected that happened?
Chloé Rochereuil: Actually, there is a behind the scenes, that is coming up very soon, so people can see all the behind the scenes of the filming, and there were so many incredible experiences.
But, one of the hardest things was probably in Japan, because in Japan the sun is rising very early, it’s completely daylight at 4am- and maybe during the entire week we slept four hours a day, and we’re just completely exhausted and it was hard to just focus.
About TARGO (True stories. Spectacular places. Inspiring characters.)
TARGO is an Emmy®-nominated virtual reality media company. We produce and publish virtual reality documentaries on extraordinary stories.
At TARGO, we blend technology with storytelling to offer meaningful encounters with magnetic characters and bring our audience to spectacular places.
Discover our experiences on VR streaming platforms and in VR cinemas around the world.
About SXSW Film Festival
Now in its 30th year, SXSW Film & TV Festival brings together creatives of all stripes over nine days to experience a diverse lineup and access to the SXSW Music and Comedy Festivals plus SXSW Conference sessions with visionaries from all corners of the entertainment, media, and technology industries.
SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture. An essential destination for global professionals, the annual March event features sessions, music and comedy showcases, film screenings, exhibitions, professional development and a variety of networking opportunities. SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together. SXSW 2023 will take place March 10 – 19, 2023. For more information, please visit sxsw.com. To register for the event, please visit sxsw.com/attend.
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