Pollution is a serious problem in China. Most of the energy comes from coal fueled plants. Automobiles are everywhere in urban areas due to extremely high population density. Electronic waste (aka e-waste) also significantly contributes to the pollution and has a much more direct influence on people, both inside and outside of China. Much attention has been paid to the poor working conditions in factories manufacturing the world’s electronics, but not much attention has been paid to what happens when we replace/throw out/recycle our electronics. 70% of the world’s e-waste goes to China and the unregulated recycling process is often extremely toxic to workers (some children) and surrounding areas.
Starting with a concept related to magnetism in foods, I was led to iron, then to China’s iron production, which got us talking about smog in China, and led finally to the topic of e-waste. Heavy metals are in most electronics and are part of the toxic output from recycling them. I decided to create a dish that raises awareness of e-waste issues. People consume food and electronics in similar ways: ignoring the repercussions of what they are consuming. To maintain the China-theme I decided to do a Chinese dish; however, with the primary audience being American consumers, I chose American-style Chinese food.
Dim sum is a popular style of food that involves small, massively consumable potions of food, so it was a perfect vessel to communicate the theme. The dish consisted of soup dumplings, egg rolls, and bubble tea. It was served on a platter that loosely resembled an iPad, with cutouts for the food. When you eat the food, you find a “fortune” beneath. Each food item has its own shocking surprise. The soup dumplings contain a metallic liquid that reminds you of mercury. The egg rolls contain metallic looking bits and have a naturally sweet and smokey flavor. The bubble tea uses a molecular gastronomy technique to create bubbles out of liquid iron supplement; a computer fan in the tray beneath lightly moves the bubbles to bring a disturbing movement to the dish.
My role: chef, concept design, editor/director, platter fabrication
Worked with: Steve Cordova
Teacher/advisor: Stefani Bardin