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Eating as a multi-sensory experience

3 Sophie Doyle

Acknowledgements Heston Blumenthal Barry C Smith Caroline Hobkinson Marije Vogelzang Paco Roncero Paul Pairet The Fat Duck, restaurant Ultraviolet, restaurant Dans Le Noir, restaurant Sublimotion, restaurant

Participants Holly Atherton Jordan Betley Emily Dann Billy Gray Ellie Herron Celia Knox Poppy Newman Sam Porter Phoebe Schurings Andrew Weston



Holly Atherton Student 24

Spicy chicken with salad, coleslaw and cheesy chips.

Jordan Betley Student 21 Double cheese burger and cheesy fries.

Emily Dann Student 20

Garlic bread with coleslaw and tuna pasta.

Billy Gray Student 20 Lamb Curry.

Ellie Herron Student 21

Falafel’s and humous.

Celia Knox Student 21

Lamb curry and chocolate.

Thank you to all the participants who took part in these experiments. Here, is a brief summary of everyone that was involved, along with their favourite meal/food.

Poppy Newman Student 20

A Greek platter and sushi.

Sam Porter Student 21

Quavers and humous.

Phoebe Schurings Student 20

Milk and chocolate Eclares.

Andrew Weston Student 21 Bacon cheese burger with Halumi and red onion, hand cut chips covered in cheese, pulled pork and onion rings.


CONTENTS INTRODUCTION How do all of our senses influence our perception of taste? Eating and drinking is a multisensory experience.

15 27 41 SMELL



contribute to the

alone, identify

experience taste

flavour of food?

specific flavours?

through touch? How

How reliable is our

How much input

can we make our

sense of smell.

does our tongue

experiences with

have on defining

food better with

certain flavours?

different textures?

How does our nose

Can our taste buds

How do we

81 55 67

MULTI-SENSORY EXPERIENCE How can we improve our relationship and experience with food through multisensory perception.



Our eyes are the

through our senses,

music, affect they

dominant sense so

with everyday meals

way we experience

how much do they

to enhance our

food? Does the

influence taste?

perception of taste?

sound of food have

Do our eyes deceive

an influence on the

us when other

way we appreciate

senses are telling

food and its flavour.

us the complete

Does listening to

How can we interact

opposite? 9

Introduction Eating and drinking are one of life’s most universal and enjoyable activities, yet few people recognize that the pleasure of food is dependant on all five sensory attributes. This publication will highlight how our senses deliver inaccurate messages to our brains when they are individually contributing to the perception of taste, encoraging a multi-sensory experience. Experiments will be given to demonstrate what happens when some of our senses are taken away. This publication will challenge peoples perception of their relationship with food and drink, finally enhancing and encouraging a multi-sensory relationship with food. When we are tasting food, many believe that our brain is getting all the information from the taste buds on our tongues, however tasting involves a combination of taste, touch and smell. The visual aesthetics of food and drink will influence the choices we make in what we are eating. The sound food makes when we are eating and cooking as well as background music also influences the way we perceive the pleasure of food. All our senses are activated when we are eating and drinking, so it is important that we use them to the fullest and engage in a multi-sensory experience. Restaurants such as The Fat Duck, Dans Le Noir and Ultraviolet have created a multi-sensory dining experience challenging and stimulating the consumers mind as well as their taste buds. These three restaurants have influenced experiments carried out in this publication and I would like to credit them and their philosophy. Scientists continue to conduct similar experiments to challenge the use of our senses and prove that our senses are not always as reliable as we think they are.





Pre-questions were asked to participants about our senses and how they influence our experience of taste.

How much does our sense of smell contribute to our experience of taste?(%) How do you experience the sense of smell when eating? Where do you experience taste?

experienced through your nose before food enters your mouth”

“Our noses only inform us of the smell of something, it doesn’t contribute to taste.”

“Taste mainly comes from your tongue, about 15% of taste is

“Your nose does not contribute to taste, it’s just your mouth that identifies the taste of something”

“About 20% of experiencing taste, is through the nose”


We believe our senses are reliable in sending messages to the brain about what is going on around us. However the sense of smell can easily get disinterested and choose to pick up certain odours. You would think that our noses would tell us exactly what odour is in front of us.

Does our sense of smell deceive us?

nose, and they connect directly to the brain.

Olfactory (smell nerve) cells are stimulated by the odours around us. These nerve cells are found in a tiny patch of tissue high up in the

Smell plays a huge part in the experience of tasting foods and flavours. We experience the sense of smell before and after food enters the mouth. Retro-nasal olfactory is the smell which we experience when odours travel form the mouth to the nose when eating and swallowing. Smell is the most sensitive sense, so when the nose is slightly damaged it can severely affect our experience with food.

‘Olfactory Adaptation’ Repeated or prolonged exposure to an odour typically leads to stimulus-specific decreases in olfactory sensitivity to that odour.

The Cinnamon and Vanilla Experiment Have you ever noticed how bright it is outside when you emerge from the cinema?, after a few minutes of being outside, the light doesn’t seem as strong anymore? You might feel a similar sensation in the bath when the hot water doesn’t feel as hot after a while. As our nerves are stimulated by light, temperature, or sound, they adapt. The stimulus becomes less apparent. This experiment shows how sometimes, our sense of smell stops us smelling something, even when the odour is still there. When an odour is getting stronger, our noses save us from sensory overload.

More than 75% of what you taste, comes from our sense of smell.



The Cinnamon and Vanilla Experiment Smell Test

4 Vanilla pods

Fill one squeezable bottle with 3 roughly bashed cinnamon sticks, the

Vanilla Essence

second bottle with 2 vanilla pods (cut lengthways) and a dash of vanilla

6 Cinnamon sticks

essence, the third bottle with both cinnamon and vanilla, 3 cinnamon sticks,

3 squeezable bottles (Approx 20cm tall and 4cm in diameter)

2 vanilla pods and a dash of vanilla essence. Pick up the bottle that contains both cinnamon and vanilla, put the bottle up to the participants nose and ask them to smell, making sure they get a strong smell of both scents. Then pick up the bottle containing only vanilla, tell the participants to again inhale and smell the scent of the vanilla. Now go back to the bottle containing both vanilla and cinnamon and ask the participant what scent/s do they smell?

Give the bottles a good shake before you start.




Cinnamon Smelt First

80% of participants predicted the scent of cinnamon when both scents were present.

Vanilla Smelt First

80% of participants predicted the scent of vanilla when both scents were present. 25



Where do you experience taste? How much do you experience taste on your tongue? What do our taste buds pick up?

“Our taste buds pick whether something is sweet, sour, salty or bitter”

“88% of experiencing taste, is through your tongue”

“You mostly experience taste on your tongue”

“80% of the messages that travel to our brain (about taste) come from our tongue, and the rest of it comes from the nose”

“Our taste buds only pick up salt and sweet on our tongues” “You experience taste mainly in your mouth, on your tongue, about 80% of taste is experienced through your taste buds”


Our perception of taste happens inside the mouth, whereas our perception of aroma mainly happens in the nose. Flavour is a combination of the two. All participants predicted that flavour mainly comes from the tongue, when in fact most of the experience of taste comes from the nose. Under 20% of our experience of taste is through our taste buds. When we are chewing, our brain thinks we are tasting so many different flavours e.g. onions, chicken, pepper when in fact, we are experiencing the odour that has travelled from inside our mouth, to the nose whilst, chewing and swallowing.

Does food taste the same if we can’t smell it?

Can we rely on just our tongue, to identify what we are eating, when sight and smell is taken away from us? Does food taste the same if we can not smell it? Under 20% of what we taste comes form our tongue. The Apple and Potato Experiment The Flavoured Yoghurt Experiment Food looses its flavour when you have a cold and blocked nose? Mucus in the nose becomes thick and blocks the passage between your nose and mouth. Only your tongue is sending taste signals to your brain, so food and drinks will taste bland and boring. Here are two experiments that will challenge our perception of taste and smell; they will also let us appreciate the distinction between the two, in addition how flavour is experienced with the combination of both smell and taste.




The Apple and Potato Experiment Taste Test

1 Apple

Wash, peel and cut both the potato and apple into similar, bite-size chunks,

1 Potato

place a tooth pick in each piece and place in on container.

Plastic bowls Blindfold the participants and ask them Toothpicks

to pinch their noses. Get them to choose a toothpick and start eating the food. As soon as the food touches their mouth, ask the participants to identify what food they are eating, and how they have come to this conclusion? Ask the participants whereabouts on the tongue they are tasting this food. Once the participants with the potato realise they are not tasting sweet and sour, they will spit out the remaining of the potato into a plastic bowl.

Make sure you wash the potato’s thoroughly before cutting.


The Flavoured Yoghurt Experiment Taste Test

1 Strawberry yoghurt

This experiment will work best if you have two fruit flavoured yoghurt,

1 Apricot yoghurt Spoons

instead of chocolate, toffee etc. Blindfold the participants and ask them to pinch their noses. Get them to choose a yoghurt and have one spoonful of the yoghurt. As soon as the food touches their mouth, ask the participants to identify what flavour they think the yoghurt is, and how they have come to this conclusion. Finally, tell them to let go of their nose and in and identify what flavour the yoghurt is.

You can choose any fruit flavoured yoghurt’s for this experiment.


90% of participants guessed the incorrect yoghurt flavour when their noses were pinched.

Every participant thought they were eating an apple even though 50% were eating potato. 39



Do you think different tableware (cups, cutlery, plates etc.) will affect the way something tastes? Does the temperature affect the taste of something?

“Food will not taste different if it’s in a different plate or bowl, flavour is not influenced by what it has been place in ” “The texture of the tableware does not affect taste as you only get taste from the food you are eating ”

“Tableware does not influence how food tastes, tableware is tableware, it is not flavoured so it wouldn’t affect the taste”

“When something is too hot it doesn’t have as much flavour” “When something is too hot you can’t taste the flavours as much”


Does coffee in a sustainable cup, taste better than coffee in a flimsy, disposable cup? Can we rely on our sense of touch to determine whether or not something is edible to eat/drink?

When food is hot and cold, it is recognized by the sense of touch. Different foods can taste different depending on the temperature. Many of the flavours are still the same when they are hot and cold, but the mixing of them all would not be complete. Our taste buds send messages to our brain, telling us that it what we are tasting is wrong. Millions of pounds is spent every year on disposable packaging, but recent studies suggest that spending money in this area may be a waste of time, the material and firmness of a cup has an impact on the consumers’ perceptions of the taste and the drink inside the container.

The Coffee Experiment Imagine walking home from a night out and one of your friends decides to buy a bag of chips. You reach into the bag and grab something soggy. Even though you are unsure of what’s made it soggy, the chip doesn’t appear appetising anymore and you don’t want to eat it.

Does tableware change the taste and experience of food/drink?

The way something feels can affect the way we experience taste, so how much can we rely on our sense of touch when choosing whether something is ripe/edible? What tableware should we use when we are eating and drinking?




The Coffee Experiment Touch Test


Measure the same amount of coffee for each cup and fill the cup with boiling

Plastic cups Sustainable cups/mugs

water, do not add any milk or sugar etc. Give the participant the sustainable cup/mug and ask them to start drinking the coffee. Ask them to point out, where on the tongue they are experiencing the taste (bitter, sour etc.). Ask if they like the taste of the coffee, and as them to rate the experience out of 10. Repeat again but with the plastic cup, ask the same questions and in addition, ask if they think this is a different coffee? If so is it better than the previous coffee?

Make sure you measure out the same amount of coffee for each cup.


What type of tableware should we use when eating and drinking?


90% of participants rated the coffee in the sustainable cup more pleasurable than the coffee in the plastic cup.

Every participant experienced the taste of coffee on different parts of the tongue, indicating they were tasting two different coffee’s. 53



What sounds do you find uncomfortable when eating? Do you think background music whilst cooking affects the way something tastes? Do you think listening to music when eating will influence the way something tastes? Do you experience food through your ears?

“You can’t experience food through your ears, it’s just your tongue that you experience taste from” “What we listen to whilst eating does not have an influence on how something tastes”

“You experience the sense of sound with food when you are cooking, the sound food makes when it is cooking (sizzling)”

“I don’t like eating on the plane, aeroplane food is horrible”

“I hate never eat aeroplane food, the noise makes me feel on edge, it is all about the meal deal before you get on the plane” “What we listen to whilst eating does not have an influence on how something tastes”


High frequency sounds enhance the sweetness in food, whereas low frequency sounds bring out the bitterness in something.

Does background music affect the way we experience food/drink?

Can music change the taste of something?

Scientists have proven that sound also has an affect on the way we perceive taste. Experiments have shown that high frequency sounds enhance the sweetness in foods, whereas low frequency sounds bring out the bitterness. Listening to the appropriate music whilst cooking and eating will enhance the overall experience of a meal. Heston Blumenthal introduced the dish ‘Sounds of the Sea’ in 1997. The seafood accompanied by the sound of the sea (waves, seagulls etc.) was perceived as tasting saltier and more fresh; the overall experience more pleasurable than when eating the same dish whilst listening to a farmyard.

Bittersweet Symphony Experiment This experiment has been performed by many artists to demonstrate how different sounds will make the brain focus on different tastes in food. Caroline Hobkinson, a food artist used chocolate, coffee and toffee and discovered that even though participants were aware of intentions of the experiment, they were still shocked at how the flavours altered with different sounds. Suggestions of how sounds could replace sugar in your morning coffee have also been addressed by the artists. What music should we listen to when are preparing or eating food? Try playing low and high frequency music whilst eating chocolate; focus on your taste buds, where on your tongue you are experience the taste? When you change from low to high visa versa, you will notice a change in where you are tasting the chocolate, moving from bitter to sweet.


Bittersweet Symphony Experiment Sound Test


Blindfold the participants and then start to measure

X2 Mugs

out the same amount of coffee for each cup and fill one cup with boiling


water and milk. Do not add sugar to the coffee. Start playing high frequency music and after 10 seconds give the participants the coffee and ask them to start drinking it. Whilst they are drinking as them to point out, where on the tongue they are experiencing the taste. Question if they are enjoying this coffee and ask them to rate the experience. Repeat again the experiment again and play the second sound track of a low frequency. Again ask the same questions, in addition, ask if they think that this is a different coffee to the first one? If so is it better than the previous coffee and rate the experience out of 10.

Make sure you measure out the same amount of coffee for each cup.



Every participant experienced the taste of coffee on different areas of the tongue when music was changed, indicating that they thought they were tasting two different coffee’s.

80% of participants felt that the coffee was more pleasurable when listening to high frequency music than the coffee listening to low frequency music.




Do you experience taste through your eyes,If so how? Do you think colour palate affects the way you experience food?

“You make assumptions on how food is going to taste by the way it looks”

“When you look at food, you can predict how it is going to taste”

“Appearance is important, if something looks good, often it will taste good”

“If food looks appealing you are more inclined to eat and enjoy it.”

“You make assumptions on how food is going to taste by the way it looks”

“If your meal has a variety of different colours it will be more pleasurable to eat”



More than we realise, sight has become such an important part of how we experience taste; from the appearance of a meal, to the atmosphere and surroundings whilst eating/drinking. Food not only has to be appetising to the eye, but to the colour palate as well. Our brain will already have made up its mind about how something is going to taste before you have even tasted it.

Can our eyes influence our interpretation of taste and aroma?

As Our sight has become the dominant sense, does this mean our mind will ignore other signals from the other senses ?

As sight is the dominant sense, you would assume that the sense of smell and taste would over ride vision when deciding on the flavour of something as they experience taste the most. However various studies have proven that our eyes can be deceiving, influencing our experience of taste and subconsciously tricking our minds.

This type of experiment can be carried out with various drinks/foods such as wine, soda and jelly. Using food colouring to interpret the colour palate, you are able to see how much colour influences the taste of a meal. White and red wine most often contain different fruits; white wines including tree and citrus fruits like grapefruit’s, apricots, pears, lemons etc., whereas red wines include black and red fruits and berries like blackberries, cranberries, cherries and prunes.

Do our minds suppress messages from our senses that aren’t seen as the ‘norm’?

Wine Colouring Experiment

With these contrasting flavours and aromas, you would think that one would be able to distinguish a red from a white wine. However with a quick colour palate alteration from white to red, it is apparent that our sight will trick your mind into thinking you tasting all the fruits that are in a red wine.


Wine Colouring Experiment Sight Test

White wine

Before participants take part in the experiment, you must make prepare the

Red and blue food dye

wine. Fill two cups up with white wine and add red and blue food dye to one

Wine glasses/cups

of the cups until it makes a dark red/ purple colour giving the illusion that the wine is red. Inform participants what fruits are in white and red wine. Red berries and currents in red wine and citrus fruits in white wines. (Give a few examples of fruits) Get the participants to drink the ones and ask them to write down the flavours that they smell and taste. Make sure they have some water between each wine to cleanse their palates.

Inform participants what fruits are in red and white wines.



White Wine

These are the fruits that participants identified when drinking white wine.

White Wine With Red Food Colouring

These are the fruits that participants identified when drinking white wine with red food colouring in.



How to improve your relationship with food and drink by applying a multi-sensory experience. Having a multi- sensory perception of eating and drinking will enhance your experience and perception of taste. Stimulating all five senses when eating and drinking will change the way you think about food, every time you experience food, it should be the most pleasurable it can possible be. Choosing food. Preparation. Eating and Drinking.


Choosing Food Deciding what food we want to buy is where we usually use our dominant sense of sight, what we think looks good will often taste good. However the smell and texture of the food will often inform us of how ripe the food is

and whether it is mature enough to eat. Most of the time, we are unable to eat the food before we buy it, (unless there are some free testers) therefore we must enhance all our other senses when our sense of taste is unusable.


These questions will apply differently depending on what food you are choosing so make sure you are aware of what the food should be like. Look at the food; Is the food the right colour, what does the colour say about the maturity of the food? What might the colour say about the taste? Make sure you choose a variety of colours for your meal to enhance the visual aesthetics of the meal. Focus on the texture and feel of the food, what does the texture tell us, make sure you combine a variety of different textures with your meal. Not many people pick up and smell the food they want to eat, however it will give you a good indication if it is ready to eat or not, so don’t feel embarrassed.


Preparation Preparing and cooking food is when you can really start to combine all the five senses. It is important to engage all your senses before eating as it will make the taste of the food that more tasteful. When carving and cooking food, aromas are extracted, this gives us a good indication of what we think the meal may taste like, having a positive indication on how the meal is going to taste, will enhance your perception of the meal.


Listen to music that helps you relax, even though it sounds clichĂŠ, you may choose to play music that relates to the theme of your meal (Listening to Spanish music whilst making Paella), it really does enhance your experience with food.

Make sure your working area is clean and clear, making the idea of cooking visually pleasing. Use tableware that you find aesthetically pleasing, whether it be a soft handle or brightly coloured handle. Tune into the sound the food makes when you are cutting it up along with the sound of the knife hitting the chopping board. If you are cooking the food in a pan, listening the sizzling and bubbling sounds the food is makes, what are the sounds telling you about the texture and taste of the food?

Combine a variety of colours and textures to your meal to enhance your perception of the taste, making it pleasing to the dominant sense of sight, having a combination of different sized ingredients will also make the meal more engaging.

Whilst you are carving and cooking the food, breath in deeply. Certain aromas are extracted when food is cut open, and are heightened further when it is then placed in the pan to cook.


Eating and Drinking The finished product is the most important part of this experience, enhancing all your senses before you have eaten will make the meal all that more pleasurable. All five of our sense are activated when we are eating, eating combines all senses together, sending messages to our brain about the overall experience. Do not rush when you are eating your food, taking time to enjoy the experience will heighten your perception of the taste. Let your brain take in as much information from your senses as it will learn how each senses combines to taste and how well they work together to create the taste.


Keep listening to your choice of music throughout eating as it will enhance the taste in difference ways. Depending on what food you are eating, if you want to enhance the taste of bitter or sweet, listen to high or low frequency sounds. Inhale the aromas before the food enters your mouth, let your mind enhance the experience of taste through your nose before you actually taste the food.

Inhale again whilst you are chewing, let the aromas travel from the mouth to the nose, enhancing your perception of taste. Think about where on the tongue your are experiencing the taste, when you learn to identify what foods enhance specific flavours, you will appreciate the taste much more as your mind will learn to focus on that specific area.

When the food enters your mouth, focus on the texture of the food and the sounds that are made when you are chewing.


“Of course I want to create food that is delicious, but this depends on so much more than simply what's going on in the mouth-context, history, nostalgia, emotion, memory and the interplay of sight, smell, sound and taste all play an important part in our appreciation and enjoyment of food� Heston Blumenthal


Multi-Sensory Eating  

Publication based on multi-sensory eating; how our five senses contribute to the experience of taste with experiments to demonstrate how eac...

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