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“I design alternative scenarios for the implementation of new food technologies in society” - Chloé Rutzerveld [Interview]

Chloé Rutzerveld is a Future Food Designer, guest lecturer, curator, and consultant. She combines her passion for food and a strong interest in design to build awareness in consumers’ minds about possible food alternatives so that people can determine for themselves what the food of the future will be like.

Your job title is Future Food Designer. Could you explain the meaning of this title? What is that you do? What is your aim?

“Food Design has become an umbrella concept with which professionals from different backgrounds and disciplines can identify. Because it’s so broad, it is often difficult for people to understand what you do as food designer. The International Journal of Food Design identifies the relatively new and transdisciplinary field of Food Design as: “the discipline that connects food and design: design applied to (any aspect of) food and eating, or food and eating investigated from a design perspective”. It can be seen as the design process that leads to the innovation of products, services or systems for food and eating from production, harvesting, processing, preservation and transportation, to preparation, presentation, consumption, consumer experience and waste processing.”

“In my work I mainly combine science, technology and design to think up new ways of food production and consumption for a more sustainable, efficient or healthier future food system. From a curious and sometimes skeptical point of view I design alternative scenarios for the implementation of new food technologies in society (think of cellular agriculture, 3D food printing, high-tech indoor farming, solar protein). By doing so I aim to question the status-quo, create awareness, initiate discussion and reduce the distance between research, production and the consumer by sharing knowledge in an accessible and preferably interactive way, so that people can determine for themselves what kind of food future they do or do not desire. I do this through prototypes, workshops, experimental dinners, lectures and exhibitions. In addition, I also work as a guest lecturer, curator and consultant.”

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What was first, your interest in design or your passion for food? When did you decide to combine these two together?

“My passion for food definitely came first! I did not know that I wanted to become a designer, actually everything I made and did during my first year of Industrial Design at the Technical University in Eindhoven was ugly and made no sense. When we were asked to do a project on cultured meat in the Next Nature Theme during the second year, I realized that I could use design as a tool to combine my passion for food and interest in technology and science to make people think about and experience possible food futures. By daring to look ahead and envision alternative futures, we can gain new perspective on what we eat, why we eat it, and what we may (or may not) eat in the future.”

Since 2016 you have been nominated for a large number of awards, which one are you the proudest of?

“I am not necessarily proud of a specific award, but rather of the fact that the hard work paid off when I got the chance to co-curate the first adult exhibition ‘Future Food’ for the NEMO science museum in 2019! I've always found it one of the most interesting museums when I was a kid. How cool is it that I could make an exhibition for them 15 years later?! It was also my first 'real' job as a curator.”

Could you tell us bit more about the Future Food Exhibition at NEMO science museum in Amsterdam? How did you decide on the theme, how long did it take you to organise the exhibit, who did you work with on this project?

“The Science Museum chose the theme Future Food because it is an accessible and smart theme for a pilot exhibition. Because food is a basic human need, everybody, regardless of age, gender, culture and religion has affinity with and an opinion about food. Normally NEMO develops and curates their own exhibitions in-house: the highly interactive and fixed elements are long-term investments which need to last for at least ten years. NEMO the Studio works more like a regular museum with temporary exhibitions of 4 to 6 months.”

“We only had 5 months and a very limited budget to turn a refurbished former navy gymnasium (800m2) into an inspiring exhibition. So we were forced to be very creative and work fast with a small, dedicated team.”

[Future Food is a collaboration between NEMO Science Museum and Next Nature Network. Curation: Tanja Koning & Chloé Rutzerveld. Exhibition design: Chloé Rutzerveld. Graphic design: Sjoerd Koopmans. Production: Francois Lombarts & Marco Lagrand (Next Nature Network). Editorial: Tjitske Visscher.]

“In the exhibition we take visitors on a trip. Starting in the here and now and exploring the future. Discover the potential for animal- and plant-based food, or functional foods. Discover which of today’s ingredients we may soon produce in new ways. Will we really eat hamburgers made of cultured meat? Will we actually drink milk from a robot cow? Or will we be mixing powders based on our DNA profile? Future Food aims to show and communicate the latest inventions, ideas and visions for the production and consumption of future food in an understandable and imaginative way.”  

What other projects do you work on currently?

“I have been teaching and coaching students (digitally) from the Greenlab of the weissensee kunsthochschule, working with primary school kids on a project called What If Lab about how they envision food production and consumption in the future. We are finalizing it now to present it during the Dutch Design Week 2020 and additionally I am further developing my Politics of Food project about the creation of a radical new food system based on microbes."

How has COVID-19 impact your work?

“All lectures and public events in the Netherlands as well as abroad got canceled or postponed. I was supposed to go to Berlin every other week for three months for the guest professor position but we had to switch to digital alternatives unfortunately.”

“Now, after 5 months things slowly start to get a little bit back on track. Requests for lectures and other projects start to come.”

Where do you get your ideas from to come up with the speculative design probes and interactive installations?

“My inspiration comes from nature, science, technology, art (which has nothing to do with food or food design), or random things I read, hear, see, conversations with people…”

Apart from working as a guest teacher, speaker, curator, and consultant, you also develop conceptual future food dinners and tasting sessions. What’s on your menu?

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“I do not have a fixed menu, each future food dinner is custom made depending on the wishes of the client, the number of guests, desired level of interactivity and budget. Next, I will collaborate with a chef and his team to finalize the menu. Since most of the envisioned future foods cannot actually be made at this point because the technology is not that advanced yet, certain elements / ingredients / associations are included in each dish to connect the food with the story and to create excitement, doubt and inspiration for the guests. The food acts as a medium to explore and envision the future food concepts before they are real.”

You are truly an inspiring woman. But who inspires you? Is there someone that you particularly look up to?

“Koert van Mensvoort, director of the Next Nature Network and Eating Designer Marije Vogelzang are both truly inspiring people. It’s not necessarily the work they do but the way they use their ideas, dreams and strong vision to create a larger network and inspire people to join them in their journey.”

“I truly admire and love the work of Age Haines. Her work is focused on the design of the human body. ‘How might people respond to the possibilities of our body as another everyday material and how far can we push our malleable bodies while still being accepted by society?’ I find her work beautiful, fascinating, educational and a bit weird and mysterious. It’s on my wish list to learn hyperrealism sculpting techniques, next to 3D computer modeling.”

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Pictures: Courtesy of Chloé Rutzerveld 

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