Innovations in Dining
In a private dining room at La Brasserie, an upscale French bistro in Singapore’s The Fullerton Bay Hotel, what may be the world’s smallest chef, barely more than 2 inches high, lures a lobster, many times bigger than himself, from a brightly animated ocean and onto a diner’s real-world plate. After lassoing and riding the crustacean like a rodeo cowboy, the little chef, known as “Le Petit Chef,” butterflies it for consumption.
The scene is replicated for every diner, on every plate, around the table. As the projected characters fade from each diner’s plate, La Brasserie’s waitstaff arrives to serve a real appetizer: poached Maine lobster.
“Le Petit Chef” is the brainchild of filmmaker Filip Sterckx and visual artist Antoon Verbeeck, the founders of Belgium’s artist collective Skullmapping.
“Initially, we were projecting onto buildings, which is quite common nowadays, but after some time, we lost interest in it,” Streckx explains. “A lot of other mapping companies are doing these same projections now, plus the visual language needed to reach such a big audience can be bombastic. So, we began looking at other ways to use projection mapping and started to do smaller and smaller projections until we finally ended up projecting onto a table.”
Streckx and Verbeeck created a single video at first, then invited friends over for dinner and filmed their reactions. The clip went viral, and Skullmapping now licenses “Le Petit Chef” and its spinoffs across the globe. A standard licensing fee is 2,500 euros per location, plus installation and reseller charges, which vary by region. No additional staffing is required to run the show; a server simply presses a button to start each video.
“‘Le Petit Chef’ brings a whole new dimension to the dining experience, offering something that has not been done before,” says Giovanni Viterale, general manager of The Fullerton Bay Hotel. The hotel offered the “Le Petit Chef” dining experience for a limited time earlier this year and charged S$88 for a three-course “Le Petit Chef” lunch and S$188 for a four-course dinner.
“Thanks to modern technology, the incredible projections and clever storytelling, you literally see your dishes prepared before your eyes on a plate—from the catching of the lobster to grilling the steak,” he says. “And it is all presented with great humor and fun so that it is very enjoyable for the guests.”
Videos featuring the micro-chef are screened before each corresponding course from a projector that is either mounted on a truss or hung from the ceiling.
“Le Petit Chef” proved to be so popular at La Brasserie that Viterale had to add additional seating times.
While La Brasserie has focused on a single-table, private dining experience, restaurants can screen “Le Petit Chef” at as many tables as they’d like, for the same licensing fee, by adding additional projectors and speakers. The maximum number of people per table, without compromising resolution, is eight.
Skullmapping has produced two sequels: “Le Petit Chef in the Footsteps of Marco Polo” (which features cuisine from China, France, India, and the Middle East), as well as an amusing Piña Colada video for bars called “Cocktailfactory.” Skullmapping can also customize the series—as it’s done for the Celebrity Cruises—though Sterckx says his company is selective in taking on such projects.