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R2D2 Goes Out to Dinner

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You may have noticed the abundance of QR Codes lately – it seems you can’t go shopping, open a catalogue, or even eat a box of cereal without the square, black checkered box begging you to scan it.

While many big brands are starting to incorporate these everywhere, they can also be created by individuals for personal or professional use. I’ve seen them on resumes that link to an online profile of the candidate, and I’ve also seen them on my local Mom and Pop takeout menu providing a web address to order online, but I was pleasantly shocked to find that one of my restaurant neighbors in Boston’s North End has started incorporating QR Codes on plates.

Chef Jose Duarte at Taranta learned about the technique five years ago while in Japan, and since then chefs have been using the technique all over Asia and certain European countries. It appears as though Duarte is using it to help diners learn more about their meals.

“Imagine being invited to a sustainable seafood dinner where each plate had a QR code made with calamari ink. The codes could link to websites that educated the diners about the origins of the food they were eating.” (Quote taken from BostInnovation article)

It’s a pretty great concept with endless possibilities. Restaurants started incorporating QR codes on menus last year to enhance the dining experience by adding detail to menu items, like how a dish is prepared or where a certain bottle of wine is from, but this has been the first time I have seen the chefs themselves actually incorporating the technology in the their dishes. Most chefs, while adventurous in their own separate ways, will not take many outlandish steps to compromise the integrity of their plates, taking full ownership for what they present. That said, I can imagine a chef like Wylie Dufresne placing a QR code to show which molecular gastronomy techniques were employed, or Jamie Oliver linking to the health benefits of an ingredient, or even one of my favorite zany chefs Martin Picard showing a video of the butchering process for what you’re about to consume.

While I am excited about these new advances, it is certain to raise some issues within the “foodie” community. A restaurant is supposed to be a relaxing atmosphere where diners are distracted only by their taste buds, not by the screens of their cell phones. I can imagine my father saying, “Can’t you take a few minutes to turn that thing off and enjoy your meal?”

It is inarguable that this interesting new technological integration has the potential to revolutionize the dining experience, but whether or not it’s a good idea is up to you.