If you knew Asia’s Best Female Chef made the food served before you, surely you’d have no qualms about devouring it—even blindfolded.
A hundred individuals did just that in a recent by-invitation event held to celebrate the Sight Saving Month of August, where guests enjoyed a special four-course meal prepared by chef Margarita Fores—with their eyes closed.
Gift of sight
For the second year, lifestyle eyewear specialty store Eye Society held “Dinner in the Dark” to create awareness on eye health and blindness and raise funds for its chosen beneficiary, the Eyebank Foundation of the Philippines, for whom it raised P100,000 last year.
This year, Eye Society also included St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) Global City’s Department of Ophthalmology as beneficiary. Its goal is to double what was raised in 2016. The Eyebank and the Taguig hospital are working together to give the gift of sight to blind patients.
Neelam Gopwani, AVP of business development and marketing of Branded Lifestyle Inc., which owns and runs Eye Society, said her team came up with the Dinner in the Dark idea after experiencing a similar dinner in London, where the dining room was pitch dark and the servers were blind individuals.
“We went just to experience it, because we’d heard of such dinners in other countries,” she said. “It was a crazy experience and also quite gratifying. We went away with a renewed sense of sight. So this isn’t just a promo for our brand, but more of an advocacy. I mean, we do facials every month, but when do we really take time to get our eyes checked?”
To hold the event for the first time last year, Gopwani and team had to take an online course on how to run a restaurant for the “blind.” Eye Society ran its first Dinner in the Dark at Cru in Marriot Hotel in Resorts World last year, with some 400 guests.
Textures and aromas
This year, it tapped Fores’ Cibo to prepare the dinner at Samsung Hall of SM Aura Premier. It was a four-course meal with plenty of textures and aromas, since diners were blindfolded.
(Fores will also cook for Eye Society customers on Oct. 8—for every minimum single-receipt purchase of P10,000 from the premier eyewear boutique until Sept. 30, customers will be entitled to two tickets to the dinner.)
Fores revised her menu three times, making sure there were enough textures and aromas to make up for the diners’ absence of sight. “She also made sure everything was beautifully plated even if the guests couldn’t see the presentation,” Gopwani said.
There were facilitators to guide the diners throughout the meal. Blindfolded, the diners were told what was before them—water at 1 o’clock location, Möet et Chandon champagne at 2 o’clock.
Once a dish arrived, diners were told to touch the plate before them, then fork and knife to the food. With each bite, guests were quizzed about what they were eating. Apart from general descriptions of the dishes (“From the Sea,” “From the Earth”), it was entirely up to one’s heightened sense of taste and smell to guess what they were biting into.
Unbeknown to the chef until that evening, her father, Dr. Raul Fores, was instrumental in starting the Eyebank Foundation. According to founding president Dr. Minguita Padilla, it was Dr. Fores who gave her the seed money of $500 to start the Eyebank in 1994.
Branded Lifestyle Inc., the mother company of Eye Society and Vision Express, is the distributor of luxury eyewear brands like Ray-Ban, Bulgari, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Persol, Miu Miu and Burberry.
That evening, Eye Society auctioned off two pieces of Bulgari eyewear, including a diamond-studded, 18k-gold pair that retails for close to P460,000. Proceeds also went to the Eyebank and SLMC Global.
Eye Society has eight branches nationwide. Visit eyesociety.com.ph, on Facebook, and @eyesocietyph on Instagram.