In a hidden backyard in Storgata – one of Oslo’s main streets – a former workhouse for the poor has been transformed into a vibrant space housing all kinds of creative people and business. On the top floor, what was once a chapel has been turned into a green haven of an office space, with architects, designers and social entrepreneurs focusing on sustainability in various forms. After a year of dedicated work, the co-working space was finally ready for a housewarming party of the rare kind.
The party was hosted by Elementa – a small and new company describing themselves as «makers of ideas and furniture» with a goal to «re-imagine the workday through design, curiosity and sustainability» – in collaboration with fellow co-workers Food Studio, and Another Design Studio (Studio).
For Elementa, or Nikolai Handeland and Bent Schrader – house chef for the occasion – the party was a chance to show off their new residence, the wonderful space that Prindseloftet has become, part due to the office furniture they lead and to Bent’s green fingers. Food Studio’s Cecilie happened to come across the perfect concept for the party when she visited Stockholm and was introduced to Prang Lerttaweewit, who took the concept 31T (BIT), developed by Prang and Paulo Barcelos and formerly known under the working title Mixology, to Norway and Oslo for the first time.
She calls it a form of «power mingling», and tells us that she wanted to «make people mingle in a more efficient maner, where they could use their creativity and playfullness to start a conversation.» As an experience designer with a background from Konstfack, the Swedish Art School in Stockholm, she came up with a concept to help people meet and greet and enjoy themselves while enjoying and experiencing new flavours and textures. Food is always a great conversation starter, and with 31T the whole concept is based around making food into a fun and interactive activity. 60 different tiny ingredients are placed out in a wonderful pattern of color – and by a classical approach to a menu: Starter, main course and dessert. None of the dishes have names, so even though you will probably recognise some of them as being «cheese», «seaweed» and «bread», you might be fooled into thinking the baked apple wedges are actually potatoes, which makes for an interesting combination of flavours and a few confused seconds where you wonder if these potatoes are perhaps not fully cooked, or just a little off tasting? Which brings us to the point of 31T, because when you don’t know what all the different dishes are, you will not be held by conventional thinking. «It’s organised by color so as to not stifle peoples creativity, and to encourage them to be curious and not think too much about what type of foods they are mixing. Just go by the colour and texture and their intuition», as Prang explains her concept.
What makes 31T even more special, is the fact that you are only allowed to mix three ingredients at a time (and eat them in one bite), and you can only have the same mix one time. So if you find a combination that you really like, you are not allowed to have it again. What you can do, though, is rate your combination on the 31T-app, and of course tell the others.
«At first it was just a poster where people could write up their combinations», Prang explains with a smile. «But now, with the app, it’s more fun. There is so much we can do with the data. Seeing what type of combinations people start out with, and how their mixes change during the evening is one thing. Then you can filter by data, and see all the combinations people have tried with for example mackerel. I think that the things people come up with on their own in these events are much more interesting than what the chefs can create.»
Prang sees 31T as a way for technology and gastronomy to meet and work together in a constructive manner. Something that does not happen often. «Information around tasting are usually a top-down function, with recipes coming from chefs, menus presented to the customer. The difference with 31T is that it makes food fascinating, makes tasting evident, and makes bottom-up information available.»
The collected data from each event allows for a great overview of this bottom-up information. «Combinations are collectively generated by people of various minds and backgrounds. This permitting randomness, playfulness, and chances to pitch in some magic!»
As an icebreaker, 31T works perfectly. People did just what the name stands for – choose 3 ingredients – eat in 1 bite and then Tell. Everyone was swarming around the colourful table, testing out different combinations, adding combinations to the app and passing the word around. Dark chocolate, seaweed and red beet jelly, for example. Where else will you get the chance to try that combination? Appetizers, dinner and desserts – or be dearing and cross-mix, change the order in which dinner is served, just have fun and explore.
To top all of the food fun, the evening was rounded off with a wonderful klezmer-style celebration: Live music and a sweaty, dancing crowd.
Needless to say, the party was a huge success. But it would not have been possible without the help from some of our amazing friends and partners: Indre Oslo Matforedling, Rørosmeieriet, The Northern Company, Herbanists, Handwerk, Tim Wendelboe, Nordic Ocean Watch, Non Dos – and Growlab, another wonderful and creative coworking company at Prindseloftet. A big thank you to you all!
If you are curious to see what interesting flavours our guests created, be sure to check them out here.