The filmmakers who produced the virtual reality docuseries Behind the Dish hope to change the way people perceive food. Virtual reality studio Targo uses VR reality and 3D photography to invite viewers to approach food as art in a way they perhaps haven’t considered or seen before. The three-part film, featuring three female chefs from three different countries, will be screening at South by Southwest (SXSW) this month.
Victor Agulhon, CEO and co-founder of VR studio Targo that produced the series, says the driving force behind making Behind the Dish, was all about changing perspectives. “Literally in terms of the way we look at food because we always look at food as something that we are going to eat,” he says. “There was first a goal to make it almost as a form of art,” he says.
The series director and Targo co-founder Chloe Rochereuil says that once they cracked the code on the technology to film food in the elegant manner they saw fit, they had something new to convey about cuisine. “Thanks to this technology we could actually dive into the dishes,” she says.
“When we’re talking about cuisine, when we’re talking about elaborate gastronomy, these plates, these dishes, they are extremely elaborate with a lot of details,” Agulhon says. “We thought that, with virtual reality, we could unlock a new way to approach it. That’s for the visual part.”
The other part was to put a spotlight on the journeys of three chefs: Helène Darroze, a French chef behind various Michelin-starred London restaurants such as her namesake one at the Connaught; Deborah VanTrece, a Black soul food chef from Atlanta of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours; and Yumi Chiba, a sushi master at Japan restaurant Anago no Uotake.
“We wanted to make a documentary on food, but we also have to tell stories,” Rochereuil says. “Focusing on female chefs really helped us have strong stories because they had to face so many challenges because they were women and they had to make a path through the industry.” As a female director, Rochereuil has shared experience with the women featured in the film as men are more frequently put in the position of authority in that industry as well. “As a female director, it’s easier to address these questions and to understand what they’ve been through,” she says. “In the film industry, [sexism] is also something that can be experienced.”
Taking place on three different continents, the episodes of Behind the Dish are bound to offer a range of different cultural experiences and contexts. “VanTrece in Atlanta is a woman, but she is also a Black woman, who is lesbian. So she’s also going through even more challenges than just being a white heterosexual woman,” Rochereuil says.
A common theme between all three women was the recognition that as female chefs, they faced a harder mountain to climb, but did not want to be put in a box. “All of them didn’t want to be considered as only female chefs,” says Rochereuil. “They were like, ‘This is my type of food, this is how I cook, and I want you to focus on that more than the fact that I’m a female chef and that it’s difficult for me.’ They all wanted to really focus on their food, on their story, and not on their gender.”
Behind the Dish is currently available on the home virtual reality service Meta Quest TV, but it’ll play in real life for attendees at SXSW’s XR Experience Program at the Fairmont Austin in the Congressional Ballroom, Sunday, March 12, through Tuesday, March 14, from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.