Created with the most innovative technologies inspired to the traditions and territory recognized as the cornerstone of food heritage of Emilia Romagna, “Il Tagliere” bring a new experience about food to the table.

This dynamic utensils was made using the topographic map of Appennini, the level ground of Reggio Emilia and the Po. Celebrate the regional specialities as Parmigiano Reggiano, l’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia PDO serving on the shape that have create the flavor of “Food Valley” for hundreds years.

The limited edition of “Il Tagliere” is made by cherry wood, the same materials used for the barrels of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. Given the variation of the wood grain every “Il Tagliere” is different to the others.

As an artistic object as serving dishes “Il Tagliere” is a new way to share the traditions, the rich flavors and beautiful landscapes of Emilia Romagna, with everyone and everywhere in the world.

1) How did the project “Il Tagliere” start?

The project started with a prototype, which was designed and developed in the first year of the Food Innovation Program. The prototype and two more refined versions – produced with the help of Atelier di Cucina – were presented with other FIP projects in October 2015 in the “Contaminazione” pavilion – curated by Stefano Micelli – at “Maker Faire” in Rome.

2) How design is connected to the traditional cuisine and to the territory?

The design of “il Tagliere” is the Emilia – Romagna territory, literally. It’s dynamic curves were created using a topographic map of the Emilia Romagna region – the Apennines, the plains of Reggio Emilia below, and the Po River are all visible.

The piece moves – and it respects and celebrates the source of the gastronomic heritage of the territory. The contours that have shaped the flavors of the “Food Valley” for hundreds of years. I envisioned il Tagliere as a serving piece exclusively for products typical of the region. Of course, it doesn’t have to be used as literally as that. Regardless of how you use il Tagliere, it both highlights and connects someone to the rich flavors and the beautiful landscapes of Emilia-Romagna – however they’d prefer.

“il Tagliere” also embodies my research into using design to play with “traditional” food experiences. I want to use emotion-based design to create food experiences that feel familiar, or that we can identify with in some way but that are still unique, surprising and delightful. For example, il Tagliere lets someone serve traditional foods like parmigiano reggiano and aceto balsamico together in a new way .

3) Was this your first project connected to the food world?

I’ve been working in food for eight years as a dietitian, playing in the food world using science, digital technology and traditional media (like producing videos or materials about food and nutrition). In the last three years, I started moving more and more into projects that connected food, nutrition and design for shopping and nutrition education. This is my first product design.

Since “il Tagliere” is a sort of cap on my study, I’m proud that it has helped me launch my own small studio: HESTIA Design Lab, where I’ll continue to play at the intersection of design, food, technology, and habits. I’m exploring how beautiful things and smart spaces pique our curiosity and inspire us to play with our food – and food experiences – in new ways. Especially (but not only!) if those experiences are good for us…

4) What material was used to make “Il Tagliere” project? Why?

The small-batch, original production of “il Tagliere” was done in cherry wood, because it is a local material and it’s used to make the barrels that age Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia, DOP. I also decided to use wood (instead of stone or clay, for example) because there are so many variations in the grains of the wood; no two “il Tagliere” are exactly alike. The material of the piece references one of the most traditional products of the region (aceto balsamico). But it also honors the inevitable variations (innovations?) that happen over the years to any food ‘tradition.’ How many slight ‘improvements’ have Reggiani grandmothers made over the years to their recipes for erbazzone, cappelletti, or tortelli?

5) “Il Tagliere” has involved actively also the Chef Gianni D’Amato and Andrea Bezzecchi (Acetaia San Giacomo): What was their role and how their knowledge have enrich the project?

I was lucky to do my research on food experiences in Reggio Emilia, where there is a fantastic respect for regional food traditions, but also a sense of playfulness around it. I met Andrea, Gianni and Fulvia while I was at the Food Innovation Program, and the experiences and conversations around food they are all creating at Caffe Arti e Mestieri and Acetaia San Giacomo are a perfect example of this respect and playfulness.

I consider them innovators who have demonstrated a way to tap into emotions and change how people ‘talk’ food: they design food experiences that feel familiar, or that have ‘traditional’ elements that are recognizable in some way, but are still unique, surprising and delightful.

Andrea and I worked together at the Maker Faire event in Rome, and his products are a natural fit with the story I want to tell with il Tagliere. In fact, Andrea helped me refine how to tell the story of traditional products in a new way – how much do you really need to ‘translate’ a food story? How literal did the story need to be to give value to the foods being served on il Tagliere? Because he is local, Andrea has great insight into what people in Emilia Romagna think and need, but also what folks living outside Italy are interested in. He helped form a product that let’s people celebrate a true Emilia-Romagna food experience wherever they are in the world.

I approached Gianni and Fulvia to ask them if they thought il Tagliere might have a place in the experiences they were creating with typical products used in new ways. Gianni was very interested in using the board to tell his own story about creating new gastronomic heritage with parmigiano reggiano and aceto balsamic. He thought the tagliere was a natural fit to the restaurant’s current creative process.

6) How did the city respond to the project?

The response was overwhelming.

Gianni, Fulvia, Andrea are some of the best representatives of the city of Reggio Emilia I could have hoped for, for this project. They helped organize an evening to launch it Tagliere with “experiences.”

Right before Christmas, we held an event with more than 60 artists, journalists, food lovers, designers and people from the region who joined us to enjoy conversation, Gianni’s interpretation of food served on il Tagliere, drinks, and good music at Ars Vivendi studio (thanks to Cesare Ferrari). I presented 25 limited edition versions of il Tagliere, and chef Gianni D’Amato, signed them.

We spent the evening talking about tradition, innovation, and food design. As Cesare (Ars Vivendi) described it, “il risultato di questa iniziativa sinergetica sia stato apprezzato e, soprattutto, abbia sensibilizzato ulteriormente tutti i presenti sulle “qualità” del nostro territorio. Il “sigillo” che Hildreth ha presentato, è la naturale evoluzione di quella ricerca che ognuno di noi, nella propria attività, manda avanti quotidianamente, parlo appunto di ricerca, tradizione, cultura e, consentitemelo, …estasi dei sensi.”

7) What are the next steps of “Il Tagliere”?

For now, I’m enjoying seeing the responses people have to presentations of food on il Tagliere. This piece is the first in a series that celebrates the breadth of Emilia-Romagna regional cuisine and can incorporate more of its topography, and the ‘typical’ products of each small piece of the land. Since the foods and traditions really seem to change within just a few kilometers.

I’m also exploring how to capture someone’s experience eating food from the board somehow, so that someone can “save” their experience with il Tagliere in some way – perhaps a digital image that you can take home.

Thanks to Hildreth England.

For the photos of the night click here.