Monday, 15 February 2010

Plastic Food

I remember many years ago when I worked in a kitchen, as I was preparing food for the guests the Head Chef always used to say, “Never forget, people eat with their eyes”. When I notice the care and attention to detail that the Japanese take in the presentation of even the simplest of dishes, I wonder if this may be more true of Japan than it is of anywhere else. The beauty in the presentation of food here can only be described as an art form as not only the arrangement of the food itself is considered but also the type, colour and texture of the ceramic plates and dishes is deemed of high importance.

A spin off of this seems to be the way in which customers here are lured into eating establishments by the displays of imitation food outside the restaurants and cafes. This is a never-ending source of delight and amusement for foreigners visiting in Japan as well as being an easy way of ordering when one cannot read the menu!

Models of food were first made out of wax as early as 1917 and made popular by a famous Tokyo department store in 1923 resulting in a big jump in revenue as it displayed its menu in wax imitations.

These days the food models are made from plastic rather than wax and almost every restaurant employs this method to attract customers.

The plastic food factory first obtains the real food prepared by the client and each piece is put into a molding box and silicone poured in to make a mold. When the mold has hardened the real food is removed and thrown away and liquid plastic poured in. The casting is then heated in an oven to harden it before being painstakingly painted by hand.

I think you will agree that the finished product looks as realistic and delicious as the real food itself!

In restaurants in other parts of the world I have sometimes ordered something from the menu only to think “This is not at all what I expected!” when it arrived at the table. With the display of funky plastic food outside the restaurants this almost never happens in Japan. Gotta love the foody culture of Japan!


Tabitha said...

I just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed reading your blog. Japan is absolutely fascinating to me and it has been truly wonderful to get such an insider's perspective. Thank you so much for all the things you've shared so far, and I can't wait for more entries in the future!!! :) Best regards!!

Tracie Tsuneya said...

I have been visiting Japan (with/for family) since I was a kid, and I never really got how weird it can seem to non-Japanese to see plastic food.
I've always been a fan of the plastic previews; probably because I'm a picky eater.