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Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor speaks about what advertising could learn from the food business

(03/10/2016)

The scratch card is a powerful device. To take the product experience closer to consumers, ad men pasted small scratch cards in print advertisements. For categories such as perfumes, customers could scratch the card and sniff the fragrance straight from the magazine. “Similarly, has anybody seen the magazine ad for butter chicken, where one could rub their fingers on the ad and get the aroma of the dish?” Sanjeev Kapoor asks the audience at the IAA Young Turks Forum. The celebrated chef is speaking about the role of the five senses in communication and not a member of the audience remotely recalls having seen the ad. “Don’t worry. Neither have I,” says Kapoor, breaking into his trademark smile. But he is quick to add that one cannot rule out the possibility of this happening in the near future.

“In terms of food, we are what we eat. In terms of advertising, we are what we consume,” says Kapoor, in an attempt to bridge the gap between advertising and the culinary science. And in his business, Kapoor claims, “We cook to sell. All senses are important.”

And in cooking how do the five senses come into play? After all, most of us can be forgiven for believing that when it comes to food, the only thing important is the taste, and that’s where it ends. But Kapoor claims that he has research to back his theory that if there was no nose, food would not taste as good; apparently, 70-75 per cent of the taste lies in olfactory senses. (Next time, you suffer from a nagging cold, try this.) “Chefs and dogs are the same. We both like to smell the food. Dogs are grateful, though,” he says as the audience breaks into laughter. Sight also plays a major role, he continues. “We also eat with our eyes. That means the three senses (taste, smell and sight) are at play,” says Kapoor. But that’s not the end of it. The sense of touch also comes into play in certain categories of food. Take for example, bread – soft, spongy, moist bread can have a positive influence. Also, the baker relies on the sense of touch while rolling the dough and baking the bread.

Hear your food sing!
That leaves us with the fifth sense: hearing. Kapoor goes back to throw some “interesting data” again. It shows that people who cannot hear do not enjoy wafers or papads as they cannot hear the crackle when they bite into the crispy eats. “Hence we try to appeal to all senses when we are trying to communicate with food,” he says.

Globally, there are several examples of how celebrated chefs bring in all the five senses to churn out gastronomic delights. Three-Michelin-star chef Heston Blumenthal has to his credit a dish called Sound Of The Sea. At his restaurant, customers who order the dish are given a conch and earphones along with the dish. The dish is consumed along with customers hearing the sound of the sea for a seashore-like experience.

And watch it smell
In Chicago’s Alinea, another Michelin three-starrer, the waiter will bring out a pillow and lay it out on the table. On top of the pillow he will place a plate of rhubarb sorbet and goat-milk cheesecake. The pillow is filled with lavender-scented air and the weight of the plate causes the lavender scent to be pumped out of the pillow at a rate matching the speed at which one consumes the dish. “We make food communicate. We want the food to emote. When we talk to food and the food talks to you, the memory of food stays with you forever,” says Kapoor.

According to him, that’s the real power. “There are many other cues to accentuate the food and make it emote more. It not only communicates but also evokes emotions,” he says, appealing to advertising agencies to be truthful about the way they deliver messaging of food products.

Needed, the whole truth
“Food impacts us in a deeper way. There are times we communicate in a way that consumers do not understand. Saying that a product is 97 per cent fat-free means that it contains three per cent fat,” he says, and adds that many times advertising makes food look like what it is not. Kapoor says that while recently shooting for one of his cookery shows, he wanted the fish to be replaced with a fresher one. It was midnight and the request could not be fulfilled.

The producer said that this was a television show and the viewer might not be able to sniff out a fresh fish from this one. But Kapoor was insistent that he would never be able to bring out his true emotions if the ingredient was faulty.

One cannot say the same thing about ad men, though.

Remember the innumerable ads that make milk pouring out of a glass look as thick as a can of paint? In all probability it’s actually a can of paint. Small deviation when “eating with our eyes” becomes cheating our eyes.

Source: Business Line

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.