Digging into the fourth course of dinner — a butter-poached beef tenderloin with caramelized onion — tiny carrots with legs and arms danced to a jaunty piano tune across the plate. Becoming a member of them have been Champagne glasses and avocado halves (additionally with legs and arms) swaying forwards and backwards in an virtually cult-like celebration. Because the server took the plate away, the dancers disappeared and the chef promptly walked on the highest of my desk to speak about dessert.
No, the diner isn’t deep within the throes of psychosis. Le Petit Chef at Fairmont Chicago makes use of augmented actuality (AR) to digitally venture animated characters, settings, and meals proper onto tables and plates. Diners expertise a five-course dinner whereas an eponymous 2 ½-inch-tall chef (sure, like in Ratatouille) seems in 3D to organize the meals whereas whisking them away throughout time and house to inform the story of the meal’s historical past and elements.
The expertise is a partnership between Skullmapping, a 3D projection animation studio in Belgium; TableMation Studios, which gives the projection expertise for the dinner; and Fairmont Chicago positioned on the sting of Millenium Park. The purpose is to convey the meal to life because the aforementioned tiny animated French chef ostensibly preps the meal on the desk.
In that approach, it’s a super eating expertise for the TikTok technology: one which encourages photos and movies to entice associates, household, and followers to buy a reservation. Le Petit Chef at Fairmont Chicago prices $155 per particular person for a five-course dinner with an non-compulsory $42 drink choice that pairs a distinct wine with every meal.
“We tried to convey immersiveness each step of the best way,” William Shultz, the director of meals and beverage at Fairmont Chicago, says. “Whether or not it’s by way of the best way you’re getting into, the look of the whole lot, the desk, the room decor, the best way the servers are dressed. Each a part of it must create that sort of 360-degree expertise.”
Le Petit Chef has made the spherical in locations like Dubai, Warsaw, Taipei, Bangkok, Los Angeles, New York, and at sea on cruises. Nevertheless, it Chicago residency marks the tiny chef’s first Midwest go to.
The dinner is about up in a convention room within the Fairmont, which makes for a barely cavernous eating expertise. The present began with Le Petit Chef himself showing on the plate in entrance of diners. Because the title suggests, he spoke with a thick and squeaky French accent that was almost incomprehensible because of the sound system and the restrictions of the house it was held in. Lodge convention rooms aren’t precisely film theaters, in spite of everything. The Le Petit Chef doesn’t have closed captioning or subtitle choices presently — so those that are arduous of listening to or searching for extra accessibility choices will discover themselves out of luck.
Every course had its personal mini-storyline that, whereas easy, supplied efficient scaffolding for eye-popping animation.
The primary took us by way of the historical past of the common-or-garden tomato (foreshadowing our first course) and included a surprisingly violent depiction of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. The second was a primer on the artwork of plating, which included pretty homages to Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, and even the dadaist urinals of Marcel Duchamp (a downright unusual selection for a dinner setting). The remainder of the dinner included classes on making meals with love and even a song-and-dance quantity a la Magnificence and the Beast’s “Be My Visitor.”
In fact, there are nonetheless some limitations with such a expertise — particularly because it simply arrived in Chicago. As talked about already, the sound high quality was not nice and downright dreadful at occasions. A pair who attended the dinner mentioned it was arduous to know the diminutive chef’s tinny French voice at occasions. The animation additionally hiccuped sometimes, inflicting the chef and set items to re-do sure scenes and dialogue. These cases have been few and much between, however would sometimes be sufficient to disrupt that feeling of an immersive eating expertise.
That brings us to dinner itself. Shultz says the menu was designed in-house at Fairmont; the kitchen drew inspiration from the animation. Every metropolis may have totally different menus.
Every meal was plated upfront, so by the point it was in entrance of diners the meals was both room temperature or chilly. That’s a little bit of a letdown contemplating each the value level in addition to a number of the formidable programs that might have been serviced higher in the event that they have been scorching just like the bacon-wrapped rooster with pickled shimeji mushrooms, charred haricot verts, and a wild cranberry jus; or the butter-poached beef tenderloin with caramelized onions, beets, and a bittersweet chocolate sauce.
The animation additionally proved to be sometimes distracting in the course of the meal itself. For instance, in the course of the second course, Le Petit Chef simply stands subsequent to your plate and appears up at you your complete time whilst you’re consuming your carrots like an ominous, French Elf on the Shelf — however this time diners realize it’ll truly begin shifting sooner or later.
There have been additionally some extra eyebrow-raising meals objects such because the tomato course that included uncooked, picked, and compressed tomatoes together with a inexperienced tea gel and whipped feta; or the salt-roasted carrots with quinoa granola.
The animation and expertise recommend that it could be one thing for youths — if the little ones can sit nonetheless for lengthy sufficient. On the opposite facet of the coin, the dinner might be a enjoyable date evening for adults or a gimmicky approach to hang around in a gaggle.
General, Le Petit Chef delivers some nice animation and colourful visuals — however diners would possibly battle with the meals and sound high quality. If nothing else, it makes for a very distinctive dinner expertise utilizing rising applied sciences that may not essentially take off in eating places however will definitely make for a enjoyable and memorable day out.
Le Petit Chef on the Fairmont Lodge, 200 N. Columbus Drive, now by way of April 6, reservations through Tock.