As part of our ongoing Pioneers series, we’re celebrating maverick chef Paul Pairet, whose game-changing Ultraviolet restaurant in Shanghai is the world’s most innovative. Marrying high technology with sublime cuisine, the result is a fully immersive theatrical dining experience like no other. Here, Pairet shares his vision and food philosophy with Emel and Aris.
Ultraviolet is a unique, multi-sensory dining experience. What can diners expect when they visit?
“At Ultraviolet, there’s no décor, no paintings, no views. It’s uniquely equipped with multi-sensorial technology; the dining room is illuminated with lights and immersive projections, sounds, music, and scents. Each course is enhanced with its own taste-tailored atmosphere.
Most of the people who come to dine at Ultraviolet are surprised by the precision of the execution and discover that the focus point is the actually the food, enhanced by technology, and not just the technology itself.”
You are an experimental and innovative cook, as well as a former science student. What role does technology play in the way you approach cooking?
“As much as I love technology, it’s only a means to an end – in the kitchen as well as in the dining room. My technical background has armed me with a formidable tool to enhance my creativity, but I set it aside to really discover new ones – the best tool of research remains trial and error.”
How do you see technology pushing the boundaries of fine dining in the future?
“Technology opens new possibilities, and if well-driven, serves creation. For instance, in future it could become easier and more affordable to match food with dining room atmosphere so it’s more naturally immersive, as opposed to the surroundings and ambience being completely disconnected from the food.”
Can you explain your concept of ‘psycho taste’?
“Psycho taste is everything about the taste, but the taste. It is the expectation of what food will taste like, the mind over the palate. If you see a tomato, your mind will call upon its memory to tell you its taste. This subconscious outcome is at work all around us.”
You’ve worked globally at restaurants in Paris, Sydney, and Istanbul among other places. How have your travels influenced what you’re doing at Ultraviolet?
“By opening my mind and fuelling my curiosity.”
Ultraviolet only seats 10 people, how does this restricted capacity enhance the experience for diners?
“The limited capacity was imposed to the project to create intimacy. Technically, 10 is the perfect number for a single plating by the kitchen, the best number to share a single bottle of wine on tasting size and to perform and control the synchronisation of food and ambiance. For diners, 10 is the best number to ensure a lively ambiance, yet intimate enough to unite people in their curiosity.”
What can we expect from Chef Pairet in 2018?
“We are starting work on the next Ultraviolet menu, which is always a very long, careful process. It could take up to two years. I’ll also be strengthening our existing places and current projects and preparing to open a new, simple restaurant in Shanghai.”
All images © Scott Wright