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AI and the Art of Culinary Presentation

Tue, Feb 16    6:30pm

AI and the Art of Culinary Presentation: Gastronomic Algorithms between Alain Passard and Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Lecture by Dr. Emily L. Spratt

In a creative collaboration that brought together Chef Alain Passard, art historian and data scientist Emily Spratt, and computer programmer Thomas Fan, the plates from the three-star Michelin restaurant Arpège were used as a foundation from which to explore the art of culinary presentation with AI. This presentation examined the development and results of “The Gastronomic Algorithms” project in the context of the ethically controversial AI technique known as GANs, or Generative Adversarial Networks. While GANs are successfully employed by some contemporary artists, they are also infamous for their association with misleading visual information. By contrast, the aim of the Gastronomic Algorithms collaboration was to use AI to probe the limits of the sensory perception system through the visual medium with food. Radical experiments were thus conducted on the art of plating, ultimately in emulation of the Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, demonstrating that aesthetic preferences around culinary images are synesthetic.

Dr. Emily L. Spratt is an art historian, data scientist, and strategic advisor whose research spans the fields of Byzantine and Renaissance art, visual culture, cultural heritage management and the art market, applied computer vision science, the ethics of AI, philosophy, and the law. Currently, Spratt is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Data Science Institute at Columbia University in collaboration with the Historic Preservation Program and the Department of Computer Science. She also serves as an advisor to Iconem, The Frick Collection and Art Reference Library, the Artificial Intelligence Finance Institute, Exponential Impact, and the Defense Innovation Accelerator (NSIN). Spratt completed her Ph.D. on the legacy of Byzantium in the early modern period at Princeton University. Notably, she curated the exhibition Au-delà du Terroir, Beyond AI Art for the Global Forum on AI for Humanity at the Institut de France in Paris, which was sponsored by President Emmanuel Macron.


Learn more about Emily L. Spratt’s research in “Gastronomic Algorithms: Artistic and Sensory Exploration of Alain Passard’s Michelin Plates in the Manner of Giuseppe Arcimboldo with GANs” published in Leonardo Journal (MIT Press, Winter 2021).

A recap of this lecture has been published in Columbia News.