The filmmakers who produced the virtual reality docuseries Behind the Dish hope to change the way people perceive food. Virtual reality studio Targo uses VR reality and 3D photography to invite viewers to approach food as art in ways they may not have considered or seen before. Starring three chefs from three different countries, the three-part film will be showing at South by Southwest (SXSW) this month.
Victor Agulhon, CEO and co-founder of VR studio Targo, which produced the series, says the driving force behind the development of Behind the Dish was the change of perspective. “Literally in terms of the way we look at food, because we’re always looking at food as something we’re going to eat,” he says. “The initial goal was to make it almost an art form,” he says.
Series director and Targo co-founder Chloe Rochereuil says they have something new to convey about the kitchen after cracking the code on the technology to film food in the elegant way they see fit held. “Thanks to this technology, we could actually immerse ourselves in the dishes,” she says.
“When we talk about cuisine, when we talk about sophisticated gastronomy, these plates, these dishes, they are extremely artistic with many details,” says Agulhon. “We thought that with virtual reality we could open up a new approach. This is for the visual part.”
The other part consisted of spotlighting the journeys of three chefs: Helène Darroze, a French chef behind various Michelin-starred London restaurants such as her namesake at Connaught; Deborah VanTrece, an Atlanta black soul food chef of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours; and Yumi Chiba, a sushi master at Japanese restaurant Anago no Uotake.
“We wanted to make a documentary about food, but we also have to tell stories,” says Rochereuil. “Focusing on female chefs really helped us to write strong stories because they had to face so many challenges because they were women and had to find their way through the industry.” As a director, Rochereuil has shared experiences with the women featured in the film , as men are more likely to occupy positions of authority in this industry as well. “As a director, it’s easier to address those questions and understand what they went through,” she says. “In the film industry [sexism] can also be experienced.”
The episodes of Behind the Dish are set on three different continents and inevitably offer a range of different cultural experiences and contexts. “VanTrece in Atlanta is a woman, but she’s also a black woman who is a lesbian. So she’s going through even more challenges than just being a straight white woman,” says Rochereuil.
A common theme between all three women was the realization that as cooks they had a tougher mountain to climb but didn’t want to be pigeonholed. “Everyone didn’t just want to be seen as cooks,” says Rochereuil. “They said, ‘This is my way of eating, that’s how I cook, and I want you to focus on that more than the fact that I’m a cook and that it’s difficult for me.’ They all really wanted to focus on their food, their history, and not their gender.”
Behind the Dish is currently available on home virtual reality service Meta Quest TV, but it will be available to attendees of SXSW’s XR Experience Program at the Fairmont Austin in the Congressional Ballroom Sunday, March 12 through Tuesday, March 14 , play in real life , from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m
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