When the invitation came in my inbox a few weeks ago, I didn’t understand what it was all about. An interactive and immersive dining experience involving projectors and 3D mapping technology. I Googled it, and watched YouTube videos and when it came time for the show to begin, my mind still couldn’t understand what I was about to see.
Dinner Time Stories: In the Footsteps of Marco Polo is dinner theater like you’ve never seen before. Seriously. Never because it hasn’t been in the United States before. I was among a lucky few who got to see it first.
“What this is is a fully immersive 6-course dinner experience that takes the audience on a journey from France to Arabia to India to the Himalayas to China and back to France, all through 3D projection mapping,” David Fischette of Go West Creative, the producers of the show in the United States. He also tried to explain what it was going to be like in the moments leading up to the first course.
But when the show began, I still didn’t know what to expect.
There was what appeared to be a menu book on the table before us. We were told to open the book to the center page but there was nothing on it. Both pages, all pages were blank but seconds later words began appearing in my book as if it was printed there.
The page turned and a figure appeared. A tiny man with a French accent who introduced himself as Le Petit Chef. “You have a funny look on your face” he said pointing at me. I’m sure I did.
So did everyone in the room of about 35 diners seated at two very long tables. Each person had the same menu book in front of them with Le Petit Chef. It was amazing to see.
“Each diner, each person has their own setting,” explained Fischette. “Completely 3D projection mapped and animated from the perspective of, it looks like the chef is right there on the table making the food for them.”
The chef moved around the table, flipped more pages in the book and picked up a spoon (a virtual spoon) on my plate. I didn’t need special glasses to see him.
With each course, Le Petit Chef told a story “In the Footsteps of Marco Polo”. As he took us through each part of the story a wait staff brought the meal one course at a time. One course, a delicious serving of couscous, muscles, and tabbouleh came in a small leather suitcase. Another came in a box with a secret door. The palate cleansing sorbet was brought in a dish and I was instructed to pour from a teapot of water which created steam. Through the projection, it appeared that the steam from everyone’s dish left their plate and carried over to the table.
Kendall Gilfillan was like everyone else. She’d never seen anything like this.
“I think it made you interact with the people sitting across from you but each new journey was a different flavor,” she said. “Sailing through the seas and going through these storms on a little piece of paper. I loved it. I’d describe it as a completely immersive experience that really gets you involved.”
This Dinner Time Story has played in restaurants in Dubai, London, Cairo and Stockholm but opened for the first time at The Standard, a premium restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee. Fischette told me it is their home and plan to take Dinner Time Stories: In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, featuring Le Petit Chef” to other fine restaurants around the country.
Other stories will follow this one. Fischette said the shows will be similar to theater productions in that different stories will be presented for a limited time before another show takes it place.
This show runs on certain days of the week through March 17th at The Standard in Nashville. For ticket information go to www.dinnertimestoriesusa.com