Barbareño Hosts a Cross-sensory Concert and Dinner Experience

By Zach Rosen   |   April 18, 2023

Barbareño has already proven themselves on the plate – crafting dishes that blend central coast tradition with colorful flavors and engaging plating. Their ingredient choices highlight the abundance of the area while emphasizing the locale in which they are served that seemingly captures the laid-back yet sophisticated style of Santa Barbara. But the upcoming event, Taste the Music, which will be held on Sunday, April 16, is an opportunity for them to serve up a type of technologically-infused gastronomy that is scarcely offered in the area. 

This four-course dinner that is part art, part concert, and all creativity, is not just for the culinary curious but the sensory-adventurous as well – featuring a kind of immersive edible experience that one would find at innovative spots like Vepsertine in L.A. or Bompas & Parr out of London. The dinner, which will be seated communally, will be served alongside a custom musical composition that incorporates a haptic element (think vibrotactile motor in cell phones) into each seat. 

The dining design has been conceived and executed with a level of expertise rarely seen in our culinary scene. Taste the Music is a collaboration between Chef Preston Knox of Barbareño, multi-instrumentalist and professor Samuel Shalhoub, and Dr. Alexis Story Crawshaw, who holds two PhDs – one from the Media Arts and Technology Program at UCSB with a Cognitive Science Emphasis, and the other in musical composition from the Ecole Doctorale “Esthétique, Sciences et Technologies des Arts” at the Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis. The vibrotactile dining space was designed in partnership with the Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science, & Technology (SBCAST). 

Guests will get to dine their multi-sensory way through four unique courses that are tied together by one theme. “The whole dinner is poetically motivated by springtime and the different themes of the dish touch upon different ideas around spring. Those ideas are manifested in the choice of ingredients and foods, but also in how musically the pieces are structured,” says Crawshaw. 

The first course, Movement, incorporates the idea of water and is centered around seared ahi. Smoked leeks embrace its roasted notes while carbonated fennel layers in a sparkling herbal accent. “The focus of the first dish is on spice, acidity, minerality, and salt. So, the music is calibrated in a way to bring those aspects out – we use a lot of high frequencies for the acidity and the salt,” says Crawshaw.

As they developed the menu, their decisions were informed by what academia and research papers have reported on these crossing of the senses but was also largely driven by what they were personally noticing, with the ability to adjust a seasoning here or a chord there as they tasted, listened, and felt their way through the trial runs. “It’s not like we play one song per dish. It’s not quite a medley, but it has different chapters or movements to each. There’s a suite of different moments so that it really yields different characters out of each dish.”

Crawshaw mentions that many of the electronic sounds they incorporated into the pieces were actually recorded in Barbareño. Of course these clips have been abstracted and modified digitally, so think less clanking pots over a tape recorder and more the hum of the kitchen hood becoming a subtle sustained drone throughout the harmony of a piece. “The second course, New Growth, is based around the golden ratio. Samuel has this piece called ‘Spindle Pestle’ that’s constructed using the golden ratio, so I added lyrics and melody to that,” explains Crawshaw. This rhythmic element revolves around mushrooms and spirals of romanesco florets sitting atop a base of miso brown butter and black garlic. 

Each course brings its own set of surprises and one will have to attend to see what unfolds – or vibrates, or crunches, or fizzes – along the way. There will be two opportunities to experience the dinner with the first seating from 5 – 7 pm and a later one from 7:30 – 9:30 pm. Visit for tickets and more information.  


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