The brainchild of Belgian creative agency Skullmapping, Le Petit Chef is a unique virtual reality dining experience that shows the journey of “the world’s tiniest chef”, serving up food to match the footage. The concept is licensed to different companies across the world, who then present Le Petit Chef in restaurants.
In Australia, Interactive Dinner has the exclusive rights to Le Petit Chef, and right now, it’s being hosted at Cardigan Place Cellars in Melbourne. Veronica Fil from Mr Harry's Marketing Department working with the organisers to help host the dinner at Cardigan Place.
“We were huge fans of this before it ever came to Australia,” she says. "Cardigan Place Cellars is the perfect venue to host the event, we just opened at Albert Park and they take quite a fresh approach to food and wine for the area. We loved the idea of combining technology with food, and the whole concept was just so charming and sweet. We fell in love with the idea and just had to bring it here.”
Here’s how it works: the video tells the story of Le Petit Chef, who is travelling the world in search of seafood. Essentially the video introduces the dish, in much the same way as a waiter at a fine-dining establishment might, only far more technologically advanced. When your dish is presented and you’re eating, the video stops and you’re left to eat. The staff doesn’t have a lot to do with the diners, allowing the video to take full flight and immerse the diners in the experience.
The interactive video experience is perilously tricky to set up: one plate, a millimetre out of place, can throw the entire video off-course, leaving the diner wondering what the hell is going on. “It’s a bit of a nightmare,” says Fil. “We spent about two months setting up the tables and lighting so it was absolutely perfect. Everything has to be in the exact right position, otherwise it just doesn’t work.” She likens it to video mapping on a building – if it’s out by just a centimetre, the whole thing looks wonky and off-centre. Only available for eight diners at a time, it’s a laborious, expensive undertaking for any restaurant – and one Fil hopes will succeed at Cardigan Place.
The interactive video experience is perilously tricky to set up: one plate, a millimetre out of place, can throw the entire video off-course, leaving the diner wondering what the hell is going on.
As for the food itself, at Cardigan Place, it’s made by ex-Lûmé chef Kirra Parsons and it follows the journey of Le Petit Chef. Dishes include glazed brisket with broccolini and kale, bouillabaisse and a dessert of caramelised milk ice-cream with whipped cream and berries. While each restaurant is permitted to present their own menu, it must loosely follow the story of the chef, so as to match the video experience. Fil agrees that for many diners, the food is likely secondary to the virtual reality, but says that the food at Cardigan Place is made with the same love, care and quality ingredients as the rest of the restaurant’s menu.
The diners so far have been a mixed bunch, says Fil. Many bring their children, who love the experience of watching the little chef move around the world. The restaurant has even created a “temperance pairing” for diners who’d like (or must, in the case of young diners) remain sober.
And lest you think the experience might just make people put away their devices to allow themselves to fully enjoy the video, Fil says the opposite is true. “Nope! Everyone gets their phone out. Everyone wants to get Le Petit Chef on screen!”