At the intersection of innovation, research, design and food is Designer's Table - a table where you'll definitely want to find a seat.
Designer’s Table is the brainchild of local designer Raphaël Lutz. Raphaël is 37 years old, speaks four languages, has an easy smile, a warm laugh, and a twinkle in his eye. He is precise and put together. Nothing is ever out of place with Raphaël. Dare I say…he is a perfectionist. Born in St. Gallen and raised in Romandie, Raphaël comes from a family of foodies. Lutz issues from a long lineage of EHLers; his great grandmother was one of the original 40 founders of the school, his grandparents had various restaurants and hotels, his uncles as well, and his parents too. His childhood home was situated above the restaurant his parents owned. Raphaël grew up in a kitchen and around food, drinks, hard work and long hours. Restaurants and hospitality are in his DNA.
But when it came time for young Lutz to decide what to do with his life, he took a different path and chose design. After a couple of years living here and there (China, Berlin and Zurich to name a few), launching start-ups and starting companies (he had founded two businesses by the time he was 18!), he decided to attend ECAL, the famous design and art school in Renens, when he was 24. After graduating, he founded his own design studio and so began his career as a designer. But food and food culture were in his blood and he couldn’t stay away for long. Throughout it all, Raphaël had always worked in restaurants and bars as a side gig. In 2017, the chef of the Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville de Crissier asked Raphaël to design an object on which to present the culinary creations of the Swiss team in the famous gastronomic competition Bocuse D’Or. Even though it wasn’t the winning dish, it planted a seed in Raphaël’s extremely active mind. How can the container modify the perception of its contents?
Thus, in 2017, Designer’s Table was born. By then, his studio was in a large warehouse on the outskirts of Lausanne with plenty of space to create and try something new. Lutz started exploring the intersection between research, design, and food. He developed prototypes of dishes and serving platters, and signed up for Lausanne à Table under the name ‘Designer’s Table.’ In no time at all, he was fully booked.
But what is Designer’s Table? Generally speaking, it is an ongoing project dedicated to experimental design around tableware and the experience of eating. Concretely, Raphael works with different chefs to create a unique culinary experience by designing interesting tableware that encourages the guest to eat in different ways. He hosts small gatherings in his studio (up to approximately twenty people per dinner), and serves them a meal…everything from apéro to digestif.
Each dish is served in a specially concocted “food holder” or tableware object. There are no plates, or bowls, sometimes no silverware. To understand what you are eating, and HOW you are supposed to eat it, you must observe, test, experiment. Push here, rotate this to release that, turn, swivel, lift, look, play, eat. The food is delicious, and the atmosphere relaxed and jovial. Raphaël plays the part of host perfectly, making everyone feel at home and comfortable in what could potentially be an uncomfortable situation as you try to figure out how to get a rolled taco out of a tube, or lick clean a dessert served vertically and without utensils. After an initial stage of feeling slightly self-conscious playing the xylophone (which is actually the plate that holds some wheat that has been set on fire in order to cook your chicken), it is pretty easy to slip into the experience and fully embrace the experimentation.
Raphaël moved his studio to a bigger space located at the Renens train station, and equipped it with a professional kitchen and a prototype lab. In this space, he continues as tête pensante of his product design studio which produces lighting, furniture, and different household objects (including a NFT wall clock – a story for another day).
As of today, Lutz has hosted 4 “seasons” of Designers Table. After designing 20 different objects produced by 16 local artisans; hosting 78 dinners, with a total of 1456 guests;preparing 6158 dishes and serving 1600 bottles of wine, Raphaël will open another season of Designer’s Table. Stay tuned for this year’s concept and how to get your seat at the table…