Thesis 1 Round 3 Critique Reflection

From feedbacks from peers:


The overall feedbacks about the strength of the video was related to the format and structure of the video. For example, kicking off the presentation with question and by answering those questions to guide audiences to enter the scenario. And various data visualization was pretty interesting to attract audiences to keep watching.

To be honest, in the beginning of my research about the history and culture behind food, I always self-questioning about should I spend lots of time on the historical and cultural background. And then, I realized my project was not only about the final visual delivery and interaction. The research really provided a strong support of the subject. The connection between food and history definitely brings audiences’ understanding of my subject to a deeper level.

The key word in my research question is “playful” and “inspirational” at the moment. So I was glad that the choice of background music is help to address that vibe.


First thing that I noticed that one thing has been mentioned multiple times in the feedback was they are curious about specific interactions of the globe model and how does data visualization helps audiences to understand the story behind food. I have to admit that the imitation of Rubik’s Cube is a good example. But, due to the time issue and technical problems, I do not think that I can accomplish a website with an interactive spinning globe model before the end of semester. Instead of that, I will build an interactive website for documenting all my research of this semester, as well as making the website as a tool of storytelling to help people discover the hidden history behind food, culture, and immigration.

One of the fundamental thing I need to figure out right now is what kind of information will help me to address my intention. Basically, there are two things I am focusing on for the next four/five weeks. Data Visualization and 3D models. For each separate part of my historical research, I will use a “chart” to presenting those events and issues. And for each involved ingredient, I will create a generative 3D model based on their flavor and aromatic. In another word, it’s a combination of Data Viz and 3D modeling.

Last but not least, I have to consider that how to make a consistent visual system for the website and digital assets. Such as, text, the filter of photos, the color of data charts, and visual effect of 3D models. Even the content might includes different formats and domains, I hope a consistent visual system can help to bring all of them to a entire piece.

Thesis Studio 1 5 in 5

Keywords: Data Visualization / Food / Spice / Culture / History / Speculative

Day 1

FYI: In my opinion, the Chinese restaurant and Chinese cuisine in this scenario both refer to American Chinese restaurants and American Chinese cuisine, rather than the traditional Chinese cuisine that I grew up with.

“What are the reasons for Jewish New Yorkers eating at Chinese restaurants on Christmas?”

For Day 1, I would like to start with this question. Usually it may take at least 10 minutes to explain this question from different perspectives. For example, the history of Jewish and Chinese immigrants, the structure of Jewish,Chinese, and other European cuisine, the difference between American and Chinese holidays. So I summarize some possible reasons that I found through various materials on the internet and then make a set of infographic posters or data visualization to answer the question from three different perspectives.

1). The history of Jewish and Chinese Immigrants

The Wave: In the end of the 19th century and early 20 century – between 1880 and 1920 – Chinese, Jewish, and Italian immigrants all came to New York and settled on the Lower East Side.

Anti-Semitism and Chinese exclusion Acts: The various anti-Semitism activities that emerged in Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century(after 1881) contributed to a large number of Jews fleeing Europe to settle in the United States. Meanwhile, inside the United State, due to the Chinese exclusion acts, many Chinese Immigrants came to New York from California after the 1880s. Large number of Chinese immigrants went into restaurant and laundry business in order to find a way of living.

Decoration: Many Southern Italian neighborhoods and restaurants often displayed Christian images that certainly made many Jewishs feel uncomfortable. The decorations of Chinese restaurants were on the other side of it, they did not raise the tension of Jewish customers.

2). The structure of Jewish, Chinese and other European cuisine

Disguise: Even though, Chinese cuisine includes some forbidden ingredients for Judaism, including pork, shrimp, and lobster (“unclean animals”), however, the final presentation of those dishes was a perfect disguise, such as chopping and mincing seasoned pork,seafood, and vegetables as the stuff of egg rolls.

Dairy productions and Meat: One of the restrictions of Kosher food is never eating dairy products with meat. The combination of dairy products and meat was a common thing in European cuisine. On the other hand, traditional Chinese cooking does not use milk or cheese during the cooking process.

Similarity: Jewish diners could find some familiar ingredients or dishes in Chinese cuisine. Lots of dishes were seasoned with garlic, celery, and onions. Also, Jewish diners could find their cure-all dish: chicken soup(“Matzo Ball Soup”) in a Chinese restaurant. Besides that, Eastern European Jews prefered to drink tea without milk, just like Chinese custom coincidentally.

3). The difference between American and Chinese holidays

The only one: Some people might conclude that the reason behind why Jews eat at Chinese restaurants on Christmas is simply as: Chinese restaurants are the only place that opened on December 25th. 

Cultural Heritage: Chinese restaurants already became a place for Jewish families to socialize and to benter, to reinforce social and familial bonds. 


Tuchman, Gaye, and Harry Gene Levine. “New York Jews And Chinese Food: The Social Construction of an Ethnic Pattern.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 22, no. 3, Oct. 1993, pp. 382–407, doi:10.1177/089124193022003005.

Chandler, Adam. “Why American Jews Eat Chinese Food on Christmas.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 29 Aug. 2020, 

Plaut, Joshua Eli, and Joshua Plaut. A Kosher Christmas : ‘Tis the Season to Be Jewish, Rutgers University Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Miller, Hanna. “Identity Takeout: How American Jews made Chinese Food their Ethnic Cuisine.” The Journal of Popular Culture 39.3 (2006): 430-65. Web.

Asian vs Jewish population of NYC
According to kosher tradition, any food categorized as meat may never be served or eaten at the same meal as a dairy product. 
The Port Arthur Restaurant was established in 1897 and operated on New York’s Mott Street for more than 85 years.

Day 2

For day 2, I decided to make a simple visual guide for those people, who not familiar with traditional Chinese cooking but has interesting to learn about it, which was called “When to add seasonings in traditional Chinese cooking”. Those seasonings include: Szechuan pepper, Shaoxing wine*, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, dark vinegar, star anise, cinnamon, dried bay leave, dried red pepper, white pepper, fennel seed, sesame oil, douchi*, and doubanjiang*. (Shaoxing Wine*: yellow rice wine; Douchi*: dried, fermented and salted black soybean; Doubanjiang*: fermented board bean chili sauce).

According to the final visualization, I found the pattern in it.

  1. For most types of seasoning, when you add them in the early stage of cooking process, the taste will getting stronger. When you add them in the later stage of cooking process, the aroma will getting stronger.
  2. Spices in their original form usually were added in the beginning of cooking process (whole star anise, large stick of cinnamon, dried bay leave, etc.), since those spices need time to release the flavor. Those spices in powder form (or be grinded) were added in the end of cooking process, since they can quickly dissolved and release aroma.
  3. Even for the same seasoning, different timing means different functions. For example, when you add white pepper in the early stage, it helps with increasing the flavor. When you add it in the later stage, white pepper helps with increasing the aroma. This principle could be also applied to Dark vinegar and light soy sauce.

This (personal? maybe) guide is only for general purpose, the specific timing will be different when you cook diversified ingredients by various cooking techniques.

Day 3

Last week in our immigrant food future class, the instructor mentioned that Seed catalogs offered American farmers a choice of 300 varieties of corn in the early 1900s. In the past 5 years they only see about 10-12 varieties commercially available. In my opinion, this is a serious phenomenon that related to the importance of biodiversity and our community. From a cooking perspective, biodiversity means we can find more ingredients and more flavors to exploring. From a natural perspective, biodiversity is the corner-stone of maintaining proper functions of our ecosystem. From a cultural perspective, arising the awareness of endangered crops, plants, and fruits, helps to promote traditional farming knowledge and bring small-scale farming back to the track.

Luckily, I found this organization called “the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity“. And they had a project named “the Ark of Taste“. This project is a database of small-scale quality productions that facing extinction in the near future. So far, there are 5336 products, from 150 countries around the world, in the database.

The subject I picked for today is apple. The fruit that I feel familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The most common types of apple in the United State are 9 in total. But when I visited a nearby local farmer market during the weekends, I found a variety of apples that I never heard about before. Some of types are suit for making apple cider, some of types are suit for pickle. All of those products were grown at small-scale family-run farms. At that moment I realized that protection of the biodiversity is crucial.

I collected all types of endangered species of apple around the world by country. Here is the result (from A to Z):

  • Austria: 4 results
  • Belgium: 2 results
  • Bosnia, Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, Czech Republic: 1 result
  • Denmark: 11 results
  • France: 7 results
  • Germany: 6 results
  • Hungary: 1 result
  • Ireland: 2 results
  • Italy: 34 results
  • Kazakhstan: 3 results
  • Netherlands: 1 result
  • New Zealand: 2 results
  • Norway: 6 results
  • Peru: 1 result
  • Lithuania: 1 result
  • Poland: 3 results
  • Russia: 1 result
  • South Korea: 1 result
  • Spain: 2 results
  • Sweden: 5 results
  • Switzerland: 2 results
  • Tunisia: 1 result
  • UK: 20 results
  • US: 14 results

Through the observation of the map, I found that all countries that has more diversified types of apple were located at the same circle of latitude. For example, Italy and United State, UK and France. By adding another dimension to the graph, the information that viewer can collect will be increased exponentially. For the next step, if I make a visualization graph based on GIS model, maybe I can find out how altitude of certain location , water resource, or nutrition level of soil, cause impacts on local agriculture.

Originally, my intension was making an earth model, but I found out that it was hard to align each cylinder to the specific vertex on a surface in three-dimensional space. And also it’s a time-consuming process to manually collect data and make visualization.

Day 4

In the end of Day 3, I realized that record all data manually was a timing-consuming process. So I start to look into more tools to help generating, sorting, and visualizing the data. I found this website called “MapBox“. It’s a website that allow users to upload their own datasets and custom the visual effect. It’s a unique and effective tool for me, to be honestly. (at least for prototype, but I have seen some professional projects were build on this product) The format of dataset I used here was XML file, and there also was a function of Google Maps called “My Map”. You can add markers and routes on the map, and then exported as XML file. All the information of locations and routes will be converted to a HTML-ish format. For example, the name of business, the description, and the longitude and latitude, etc. After uploading the dataset into the website, you can assign different visual style into each property.

In my prototype, I marked couple “fusion” restaurant (the word “fusion” is gradually getting cliché and abused these days, I will explain this at Day 5) in the Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The outline’s opacity indicates the price. The darker blue circle means the most expensive, and vice versa. Locations without a outline are unknown price range.

I definitely will look into more tools, such as API, JS library(Chart.Js/Three.Js), and Python, for effectively collect and organize data.

Day 5

“These are cultures, not fusions.”

–  Mina Newman

04:27 ~ 05:27

 As one of the most diverse and multi-cultured cities in the US, NYC has a great amount of restaurants that own its unique dining and food cultures. Sen Sakana, a restaurant focused on Nikkei food — Japanese Peruvian cuisine — is among one of the other NYC restaurants who showed its specialty in fusion cuisine. In this video chef Mina Newman introduced a few of her signature dishes and also the historical background of Nikkei food. As she mentioned, Nikkei food was born after Japanese immigrants came to Peru. Because of a lack of food resources, the early Japanese immigrants combined local ingredients and Japanese cooking methods. At the same time, she was also a little uncomfortable when people over-simplify her restaurant as a “fusion restaurant”. “These are cultures, not fusions”, said she. From my own understanding, the fusion dishes may be just a simple combination of characteristics of two different cuisines for us as “outsiders”, but for a chefs, these so called “fusion dishes” are something they have been consumed since they were born, and it is the environment in which she grew up and her childhood memories that shaped and formulated the way of cooking. For chef Mina, these dishes are not two separated things that to be combined together, but a complete system rooted in the depth of her life. These dishes are her identity and culture rather than just cooking dashi with seafood from the Peruvian coast by accident.

The story of chef Mina reminds me of my first time eating general tso’s chicken and chop suey. At the beginning, as a Chinese who was born and raised in China for over 20 years, I was very confused about the taste of American Chinese food and I even thought they are not tasteful. Back then, I placed authenticity in such an important position over anything else, through which these Americanized Chinese food is too far away from the traditional Chinese cuisine in my opinion. Now after years as I stayed in the US and continuously study food culture, I started to transform my mindsets on these dishes that are being “localized”. The American Chinese dishes should not be considered as one of the “branches” among all other kinds of traditional 

Chinese cuisine, because this “branch” has already grown strong and become a separated and well-formulated unique food system. Sadly, until now, there are still many people who emphasize authenticity when they first try fusion cuisine, and criticize the dishes whenever the taste is different from their own memories. But the truth is, these fusion dishes are also authentic: they are authentic among those who grow up in the multiracial and multicultural background communities.

“Chow” Making the Chinese American Restaurant
Nov 2019, Museum of Food and Drink, Brooklyn
Menu of Mon Lay Won, an Chinese restaurant in New York City 1910

Additionally, the formulation of fusion cuisine has burdened the history of a group of immigrant communities. One of the examples could be found among the early waves of Chinese immigrants in the US. Originally, the sauce of General Tso’s Chicken was salty and spicy rather than the sweet and sour that we saw today, and the cooking method was also similar to the traditional Chinese food. The early Chinese immigration process was full of difficulties due to language barriers, lack of cultural adjustment and even racial discrimination back then. Most of the Chinese immigrants can only make a living by operating small businesses such as restaurants and laundry houses. In the mid-19th century, The main customer group was still white people, as a way of surviving in the US, the Chinese restaurant owners kept adjusting their food recipes in order to satisfy the taste buds of local American customers in order to make profits. Then the dishes from Chinese restaurants have gradually become what they are now (a lot of fried, mainly sweet and sour). For Chinese immigrants, these dishes are successful trials: More local people start to eat in Chinese restaurants, which helps the Chinese to earn money and live in a better life. Isn’t this all the results of “not being authentic”?

In summary, we should think twice before making any judgement on fusion cuisines. In fact,  it should be respected as it carries the uniqueness of histories and cultures, difficulties and hardworking adjustment processes among generations of immigrant communities from all over the world. Moreover, the future of fusion cuisine is yet to be determined, as today’s globalized market made it much easier for the immigrant communities to find their home ingredients that were imported from their own countries. Now the exploration of local ingredients, to my perspective, is gradually becoming a process of creation rather than simply the adaptation.

Thesis Studio 1 Midterm Reflection


  1. Too much content and not well organized

When the first time I checked the sign-up sheet, it shows 20 mins per person, I forgot it includes critique part. As a result I prepared too much slides for a 10 minutes presentation. Also, when I finished my presentation and looked at the recording video, I realized that my slides were missing some basic and crucial part to help viewers to understand my project. For example, after showing the research question, I should have to explain my perspective and the reason why I choose the perspective, rather than directly jumping into the introduction of historical background.

2. Lack of explanation of prototype and core concepts

Like I mentioned before, I spend too much slides on history part and references. Instead of only showing couple pictures of final rendering images, I should have to break down the final rendering with more previous details. For example, why did I choose GIS system, what are some advantages of generating models from GIS information, or even more basic concept, why did I choose 3D models, etc. By answering those question, the prototype will be more convincing than just laying some images on the slide.

3. Need more investigation on prototyping process

This point, to be more specific, is related to the question, what is 3D data visualization and why did I choose it. In my opinion, the biggest difference between a 2D object and a 3D object, is the height. By adding another dimension, there are much more space for designer to keep exploring. Such as, volume, shape, texture, material, shadow, and even spatial pattern. Furthermore, I need to adjust my prototyping process at this moment, which means making things meaningful, not only looks good.


I don’t want to write about strength this time, especially when I am not satisfying about what I did. So I just list two points here: (derived from peer’s review)

  1. Historical / Cultural Introduction

2. References were useful

Questions / Next Steps / Action Plan

I feel both of my two research questions is still interesting, at least for me, but I do need to blend them together. The weakness of current prototype is that the connection between model and concept was not strong and distinct enough. I definitely missed this question: How do you present spice and culture in your design? The direction I am thinking about right now is: flavor profile. Yes, the same concept that I mentioned in my 2nd research question. Each food culture has their unique blend of spices, and by analyzing and extracting the data of spice blends in different food culture, I can find it out what are those flavor “look” like. And then I can generate a set of models from the flavor profile of those spice blends. By comparing those models, for example, the usage of same spice in same region but in different eras, or the usage of same spice in different regions but in same era. Through the comparison, I can find out what changes or what is the trend in those cultures at certain point, hopefully. Just like when I looked at the data about top 10 producers of pepper around the world in different periods, I noticed that Viet Nam and Bulgaria definitely went through some things in the 90s, due to their production of pepper jumped to top 1 & 2 in a short amount of time.

For me, a good data visualization has the ability to raise questions.

For the next couple weeks, the first step I need to take is refining my research question. This question should be stay close with these three keywords: spice, culture, 3D data visualization. And then, I need to recognize the advantage of 3D data visualization. What are some major difference between 3D and 2D and what are advantages I can take from a 3D object. This will include a series of study of how people reacts to certain types of shape, material, and texture. Also, researching on flavor/aroma profile of spices and creating a list of how certain flavor/aroma corresponded with certain factor of 3d objects.

After the midterm critique, it seems the direction is showing up, gradually.

Thesis Studio 1 First Round Critique

After I watched the recording my presentation (little bit awkward tbh), I found 3 positive things and 3 negative things, Let’s start with negative things:

1). The distribution of time on each slides

It’s hard to notice that how many time you spend on each slides when you were presenting at the moment. For example, the slide of my concept statement was an important section of the whole presentation, but obviously I did not spend enough words to explain what is food culture and why food culture is crucial for our society. Besides that, I might be need to separate these two core concepts to individual page next time, so my audiences would be able to have a better understanding of my ideas.

2). The Needs to clarification

Even though the research is still going on, probably it’s hard to make a final decision about your final project. But, just in case that I won’t lose in the research, I need to build a main shaft of my projects. It could be some keywords, a question, or a statement. Whatever it is, it needs to be present and clearly be declared during the presentation. And then, your audiences will understand which potential perspective they should take. In my case, this main shaft might be “build tangible form for intangible culture/data”.

3). Stop saying “ums” and “ahs”

I am not sure if it’s only me or even native English speakers might also have this “bad” habits while they were speaking, which was using too much fillers, such as “ums” and “ahs”. It’s not only disrupt the fluency of your sentences, also breaks the logic somehow. But I found that when I was talking about the game reference, it’s way more fluent than the other sections. (Idk why, maybe I spent too much time on it.)

Ok, time for some positive things:

1). Game reference is useful.

2). The research of yogurt is attractive.

3). After reviewing the comments and feedbacks, I feel the direction is more clear.

Thesis Studio 1 Concept Statement

Official Answer:

“I am studying food design and tableware design because I want to find out how to infuse tableware with cultural food data in order to understand  the relationship between food culture and tableware. My goal is to create a three-dimensional info-visualization which reflects how food culture was changed from the past to the future, so that it can raise awareness for the topic of how food culture is developed and evolved.”  

Real Talk:

The real reason behind I have passion about food design is I love cooking and I always want to be a real Chef in the future, instead of a designer. Through those research about food culture and food study, I found some really amazing inspiration that can help me to develop my cooking skills. Somehow I found there are some common points between designing and cooking. The standard of becoming a successful Chef is not only related to your techniques, the more important element is your concept. It is same situation for designer. A good restaurant provides experience as their products, it’s something beyond dishes. From decoration to service, from the design of menu to tableware, everything insides a restaurant will affect the experience. As a result, I am research food culture and tableware design in the domain of food design. So that I can prepare for the day which I have an opportunity to open my own restaurant.

Thesis Studio 1 Goal-Setting Exercise

– What have you accomplished so far this semester? Briefly describe 3+ specific things.

  • Exploring both recently published articles and historical documentations.
  • Listening to different type of podcasts to gather ideas
  • Figuring out the balance of creative ideas and achievable techniques

– What needs to get done this week for thesis?

Deciding the research question, and then I can find more articles to exploring.

– What needs to be done next week for thesis?

Finishing some rapid prototype to help me clear my mind.

– What are my goals for the full semester?

Building a creative, solid, meaningful thesis for the final thesis project.

Thesis Studio 1 Initial Literature Review

20 Keywords:

Food Science / Tableware Design / Restaurant Design / Interior Design / Customization Tableware / Material / 3D Data Visualization / Abstract Crafting / Physical space and human interaction / Data driven Crafting / Parametric 3D Modeling

Project 1/3

Cultural Table by Ying Jiang

Table manner is a deeply grounded part in my early childhood memory, since I live with my grandparents before primary school. For a young child, table manners seems are way too unnecessary and over-elaborate formalities. But I gradually realize what kind of role that etiquette plays in the dining experience. Proper etiquette is still very important to Chinese people, who feel good manners are indications of good educational status and upbringing. Simply said, dining is not only about filling someone’s stomach, also it connects to socials tightly. In this project, those lovely animations were making viewers more comfortable and engaging during the process, instead of listening to your grandparent’s preaching for hours.

Project 2/3

GASTRO by Alonso Castro

This is a nice speculative food-related project. I have done some researches that suggests aroma is playing a critical role in dining experience. Also, the part in our brain that reacts to aroma controls the long-term memory. On another word, aroma has ability to recall our memory naturally. The “background” of this project was close to my imagination about future food culture. There is no crops, not enough space for plantation due to the Climate change, polluted environments, or invasive species etc. When people want to chase the memory of distinguished food, smells will do the job. The final design and short film was nice finished. The device has such a high-tech appearance.

Project 3/3


This project peeks in the term “abstracting craft” through a hole. I learned this term from the book “abstracting craft” by Malcolm McCullough. Computer and modern technology changes traditional crafting process from the root. One of the concept I embraced was how to make things without even knowing them. Combination of machine learning, parametric modeling and 3D printing will leads designers to explore the possibility of create things from various sources. It’s a process that making crafting process beyond human capability, and also it’s a process that giving physical forms to intangible things around us.

Thesis Studio 1 Concept Pitches

Concept Pitch 1/3

Actually, this is one of iterations of my previous food design project. But somehow it got shut down for some reasons. When I review this sketch during this global pandemic period, gradually I realize this idea has a huge potential to continue developing. The setting of this project is in the far future, which is a period with fully developed technology, but no space for eating, also there is no crops as food. How human being will survive then? Basically, my design a dining stasis chamber. You might have seen this in some space station scenes from science-fiction movies. Inside this chamber, there is a straw for bringing artificial food into our mouth. And the gas injector will spray aroma into the chamber to mimic the “real” food experience.

Concept Pitch 2/3

The second concept is an idea of future restaurant layout. The layout was derived from “Rotation Sushi Restaurant“. During the pandemic period, restaurant industry got a huge impact since the beginning, we still have no idea when the indoor dining will be resume. In order to following guidelines, the core concept is dividing central kitchen and dining rooms into independent modules with convertible roof. The separation of each group of customers and kitchen staff can help reduce the risk.


This news is a nice example of retrospective thinking.

Concept Pitch 3/3

This concept is trying to modify the crafting process of tableware in the future. I got inspired by a food design project called “Future Food Formulas 2.0” by a Netherlands food designer Chloé Rutzerveld. The Future Food Formulas an interactive installation that allows consumers to step into the shoes of a high-tech farmer and design their personalized future vegetable. Customized tableware is not a novel idea anymore, many artisans did that. But how can I change the crafting mode of customized tableware by using a data-driven format? I am trying to build a connection between tableware and food. The key point I need to figure out what is the meaning of tie the data of ingredient to the form of tableware and how. What kind of data I need and how the data will affect the final design.

MFADT Design Section Day7 HW

Today’s activity was really helpful to get different ideas from our peers. The randomness of throwing ideas could significantly help with exploration of our research question. Even the form got nothing to do with the concept, but after thinking about the relationship between those two things, I found some interesting connections between the form and the question.

My original question is how the public gonna accept those new technology infused food in the next 20 years? from material and ethical perspective?

The hint I got is dinner table.

So I was trying to think about if we could bring the whole 3D-printed process to people’s diner table. People could watch the whole manufacturing process and involved into it. Through this process, people will get understanding of what is the material for printed food and watch the whole process while the food is printing. Human-being always fear of unknown stuff. But once people saw the whole process and understood what’s inside the food, they would accept new-technology infused food more easily.