Introduction: Culture and Aesthetics in the Context of Culinary Systems
Living in the today fast-paced environment does not allow people to think much about the aesthetic aspects of food, including not only its preparation but also consumption thereof. The identified tendencies in the lives of the 21st-century people lead on to a false assumption that there is little to no aesthetics in food consumption or production. However, there is an obvious connection between culinary systems and aesthetics as a concept. Moreover, there are different cultures of food production and consumption.
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Essential Cultural Perspectives: The Chinese Interpretation of the Culinary Art
In the context of the Chinese culture, culinary is typically perceived as an art form. As a result, food, as well as the stages of its creation and consumption, is viewed primarily as an aesthetic experience. Therefore, the creative imagination aspect of food preparation is emphasised heavily in the Chinese culture (Ilmann, 2013).
What makes Chinese food different from the one belonging to any other culture is the fact that it is very rich in colours, flavours, and taste diversity. The use of spices and other flavour enhancers often had the aesthetic purpose of dispelling specific smells that would be considered unappealing otherwise (e.g., mutton). However, the addition of spices into the food also implied diversifying the taste and making the experience of its consumption unique.
Therefore, when arranging the Chinese restaurant so that the patrons could approve of the authenticity of the place, one must consider the emphasis on the artistic aspect of cooking. The process must be viewed as the ultimate way for a cook to express themselves and their artistic vision. Finally, one must keep the focus on the diversity that is viewed as the essential feature of the Chinese food and the core of its aesthetics.
Practical Aesthetic Ideas for a Chinese Restaurant
The aesthetics of the restaurant must be both sophisticated and appealing to the citizens of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Furthermore, when implementing the designed culinary approach in the context of a particular setting, one must bear in mind that there is a palpable difference between the Eastern cultures and the Western ones. Therefore, it is necessary to realise that, in case the patrons of the restaurant are of a European, America, or any other descent that is not related to the Eastern one, premises for a culture clash can be created. To avoid the possible issues, it will be necessary to resort to some of the cross-cultural communication techniques that will help get the message across successfully without distorting it (Young & Richardson, 2013).
At this point, one must bring up the problem related to the use of the traditional tropes and elements associated with the Chinese culture and usually viewed as stereotypical. Although some of them might be true, the stereotypes about the Chinese culture harm the process of experiencing the Chinese culture, in general, and its food, in particular, to a considerable extent. Therefore, the use of the stereotypical imagery as the means of placing a stronger emphasis on the nature of the services must not be overused. For instance, the dishes shaped like dragons, which are an integral part of the Chinese culture, are not to be viewed as an indispensable element of the design – quite on the contrary, it is recommendable that the identified element should be included in the overall design in a more subtle manner (e.g., using the outlines of the image as opposed to the entire picture). The stereotypical imagery, while not necessarily to be avoided, should be interpreted as an additional tool for rendering a specific idea and introducing the audience to the unique atmosphere of the place. In other words, while stereotypical imagery may be represented in the restaurant, it must not be portrayed as its selling point (Counihan & Estenik, 2013).
Instead, the patrons must realise that the restaurant offers its visitors truly unique experience of indulging into the aesthetics of Chinese culinary art, with an optional chance of learning more about the Chinese culture, in general. In other words, the authentic elements must not be made obtrusive; instead, the audience should be pointed very delicately to the fact that they are about to experience the Chinese culture in all its richness and diversity.
Aesthetic Concepts and the Culinary Design
Succumbing to the traditional tropes used by Chinese restaurants in a European or American setting is clearly not the best way to represent the place and the art of its cooks. Thus, it will be a reasonable step to use the subtle touches to new dishes as opposed to providing the target audience with the standard array of Chinese food (e.g., dumplings, spring rolls, etc.). Excluding the identified elements from the menu is not necessary; instead, it will be reasonable to stress the diversity of the dishes that the restaurant has to offer.
Including the food cooked in the styles of different provinces can be considered an appropriate use of diversity as an aesthetic concept that is widely common in the Chinese cuisine. As stressed above, even the traditional food that has become the staple of the Chinese cuisine differs in its ingredients and approaches to cooking based on the province from which the recipe is borrowed, hence the need to diversify the menu (Zhu, Huang, Zhang, & Zhou, 2013).
Considering shapes and colours as part and parcel of the culinary design, one should, however, follow the standards that have prevailed in the Chinese culture despite the fact that they may be used by other restaurants. For instance, the use of the black colour as one of the easily identifiable details of the Chinese visual culture needs to be brought up as an essential addition to the culinary design. In a similar way, the incorporation of angular elements, especially squares and rectangular shapes, in the design of the environment and the dishes has to be viewed as an essential task.
Furthermore, one must bear in mind that the concept of harmony makes one of the main building blocks of the Chinese culture. Therefore, in order to create the unique experience that will both represent the target culture and cater to the needs of the patrons, one must make sure that there should be no elements that seem out of chord with the rest of the environment.
At this point, however, one must point to the obvious fact that most of the restaurant patrons are likely to be of either the European or the American descent. Thus, creating a nuanced environment in which they could immerse in the target culture is essential, yet it is also crucial not to overload the restaurant with excessive details. In other words, simplifying the crucial elements of the Chinese culture so that it could become accessible to the patrons of all descents and at the same time easily recognisable is essential. Therefore, it will be reasonable to transform the Chinese aesthetics slightly so that it could make the environment of the restaurant easily distinguishable and at the same time easily accessible by the representative of any culture
In order to create the unique environment in which every visitor, as well as the patrons of any descent, could feel inspired and enchanted by the Chinese culture and at the same time comfortable in the target setting, one may consider combining the elements of the Eastern and the Western culture in a subtle manner. As a result, a compromise between form and function can be reached, which is especially important for culinary as an art form in the context of the 21st century. The globalisation-related trends which can be observed in the environment of the 21st-century promote active experience sharing between the representatives of different cultures all over the world (see Fig. 1).
As a result, the prerequisites for multiculturalism have been created. The propensity for cultures to acquire alien elements and incorporate them organically into the design of the environment and the dishes needs to be used when creating the culinary design. Otherwise, the patrons of the restaurant, as well as its visitors, will fail to connect to the Chinese culture. In the latter case, the experience that the patrons and the customers will have at the restaurant will not be different from the one at any other place serving typical Chinese food.
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When considering the aspects of the culinary design, one must provide the audience with the dishes that represent the four essential areas of the state. The fruits of sunlit Canton should be combined with the spicy flair of Szechwan, whereas the means based on fish and rice and the foundation for the Chinese cuisine of the Hunan province will become the foundation for more sophisticated dishes. Finally, the elements of the northern recipes will serve as the means to make the dishes nourishing (Feuer, 2015).
Conclusion: Restaurant Aesthetics as Experienced by Patrons
By focusing on the aspects of the Chinese cuisine that have not been yet addressed in detail by other restaurant companies, as well as retaining the stereotypical elements of the Chinese culture as a background, one is likely to create the aesthetic environment that will appeal to all types of patrons of the restaurant. It is essential to bear in mind that the place will have to offer unique experiences to its patrons and visitors; thus, it will be necessary to use the elements of the Chinese aesthetics and cuisine that will appeal to all members of the population. Furthermore, it will be necessary to create the environment that will be flexible enough to accept changes and influences of other cultures, as well. While one must keep in mind that people will come to the restaurant to experience the Chinese cuisine, one will also have to be able to represent the target culture properly. By showing that the Chinese cuisine, including its nutritional and aesthetic elements, evolves by accepting changes and outside influences, one will be able to represent the Chinese environment in an accurate and unique manner, therefore, attracting an impressive amount of customers.
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Counihan, C., & Estenik, P. V. (2013). Food and culture: A reader. New York, NY: Routledge.
Feuer, H. N. (2015). Urban Brokers of Rural Cuisine: Assembling National Cuisine at Cambodian Soup-Pot Restaurants. Austrian Journal of South – East Asian Studies, 8(1), 45-65.
Ilmann, T. C. (2013). The land of the five flavors: A cultural history of Chinese cuisine. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Young, C., & Richardson, A. (2013). The breath of a wok: Unlocking the spirit of Chinese wok cooking through. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Zhu, Y. X., Huang, J., Zhang, Z. K., & Zhou, T. (2013). Geography and similarity of regional cuisines in China. PlosOne, 8(11), e79161.