Ideas In Food; Space Concept

In 2011 I was asked to come up with ideas for great chefs that might be interested in doing a restaurant in the commercial spaces of a loft building development project in Philadelphia. Immediately I thought of the amazing duo Alex and Aki of Ideas In Food.

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Alex and Aki are not only chefs but also researchers, innovators, writers and teachers, their repertoire of professional endeavors rather broad. And they serve both the professional chef community as well as amateur enthusiasts. So if I was going to propose a commercial space for some sort of restaurant to them it would have to be flexible enough to accommodate all that they do.

My initial thought was to have the space look and fell like a stripped-down research laboratory/art gallery/loft hybrid. Much like their photography, I wanted the Ideas In Food space to focus on the beauty and deliciousness of the food itself, allowing everything else to fade into the background.

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ideas-in-food-logo-72Also, this need for complete flexibility I found very interesting. While the ‘grocery-store-to-restaurant’ and ‘bakery-to-restaurant’ models are out there, few restaurants design their operations for flexibility much further than the minor differences that may occur between lunch service and dinner service. For an Ideas In Food home, since Alex and Aki’s work has them constantly doing different things from day to day, this space would have to adapt to that as well. The main idea of my design concept was to move the cooking functions of the restaurant forward to the front of the space. A simple move, but this would allow the space to function differently depending on the day’s programmatic requirements.  On days the space was to be used for public cooking demonstrations, attenders could gather around the open kitchen and all the action would be visible from the storefront. Classes could participate by using the high dining room tables as student work stations. The space could also be closed to provide private consulting workshops to groups of chefs or whole restaurant staffs. On evenings that the space would be used for paid events or simply dinner service, all of the cooking would be done in the open kitchen to provide for some ‘visual theater’ interest for the diners.

110730-demian-ideas-food-light-72In lieu of a hidden walk-in cooler, a large portion of the refrigeration requirements would be provided by a wall of glass-doored coolers at the back of the space. This would be in an effort to make all of the functions and operations of the restaurant and food preparation as transparent and accessible as possible. The space would also have ample room for specialized equipment Alex and Aki are using for their personal research and development projects as well  space for their vast cook book library.

The one additional design element that I came up with as part of the initial Ideas In Food concept was the light fixture. A simple upturned light bulb placed around the stainless steel bar above the heads of workshop participants and diners. A fun symbol of the potential everyone has to develop their own creativity through exploring the possibilities of food.

Alex and Aki ultimately decided to focus on other projects that they were working on at the time, but it was fun to develop this idea for them. I appreciate their time in working with me and considering it.