The designer Andreas Fabian got a PhD in spoons (really), and now he is on a mission to bring science to cutlery design. His first utensil, called the Goûte, which he created with Charles Michel, the chef-in-residence at Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory, is a teardrop-shaped glass wand that’s modeled after a finger and preliminary research suggests it makes food taste better. It’s used to eat creamy foods like peanut butter, Nutella, yogurt, or hummus.

“There hasn’t been a lot of development in the design of Western cutlery over the last two centuries,” Fabian says. “We think that current cutlery isn’t adding to the pleasure of eating.” Fabian and Michel’s collaboration began with a question Fabian asked when they first met: What is the greatest compliment you can receive as a chef? Michel’s response was for someone to lick their plate. The two began to think about the intimate experiences people can have with food when they’re unconcerned about proper manners - licking your finger while cooking, licking your plate when finished. What if they could create a new kind of utensil that mimicked that feeling, bringing a new level of mindfulness and joy to eating?

Studies have shown that what utensils people use impacts how they taste and perceive food - according to a 2013 study by Vanessa Harrar and Charles Spence, the weight, color, size, and even shape of cutlery can cause slight differences in taste and how expensive people perceive food to be. For instance, according to the study, “yogurt was perceived as denser and more expensive when tasted from a lighter plastic spoon as compared to the artificially weighted spoons.”

Michel and Fabian co-founded the design studio Michel / Fabian to work on new utensils, starting with a series of prototypes for a 2014 exhibition at London’s Science Museum called “Cravings”. Goûte is the first of those prototypes to come into production.

Fabian started the design process by 3D printing a model of a single finger and adding a handle. Next, he abstracted the form of a finger so that it was smooth and shapely, then decided on glass as the material because it “feels beautiful in your mouth.” A wood version is available, as well, and acts more like a honey dipper.

To test the product, Fabian and Michel teamed up with the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford, an experimental psychology lab which focuses on multi-sensory perception that’s run by Charles Spence. Michel is chef-in-residence and conducts research on food aesthetics at the CRL. After having participants taste yogurt using plastic spoons and using a Goûte, they found that participants perceived the yogurt as better and creamier when using the Goûte.

Psychologists at the University of Oxford asked participants to eat yoghurt from spoons with different weights and colours and then rate the taste of each sample.

They found that yoghurt slurped from light, plastic spoons tasted denser and more expensive than yoghurt eaten from weighted plastic spoons.

Cheese was rated as saltier when served on a knife than when gobbled from a spoon.

Results of a recent study by scientists at Nestle concluded that shape does influencetexture and flavour perception. A round shape was one of the best when it came to melting and smoothness. ... "The perception of flavour is influenced by a lot of things and shape is one of them."

Wine buffs would have you use a different shape of glass for different wines. Certainly the often used open bowl shape used for Babycham has been deprecated for Champagne in favour of the tulip shape.

Read the full article from the Flavour Journal BioMed Central.pdf