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July 15, 2013
The first design to emerge from hot new Toronto design studio +tongtong is Mooncake, an invitingly spare dining table whose removable trays, fashioned after the alluring topography of our otherworldly moon, are designed to be eaten from directly, thereby inviting chefs and hosts to use food artistically, while asking diners to participate in a new communal eating experience. “I read the other day that the only food we share in North America is pizza,” says +tongtong founder and director John Tong, an architect who has turned his sights to product and furniture design to elevate the imperative of a good and functionally interesting design creation. “Everything we eat besides pizza is served on individual plates,” Tong continues. “I am Asian and I grew up with the Dim Sum rotating table experience; eating off multiple plates, sharing plates, tasting all the food. It’s a very intimate experience that we hardly ever get to enjoy in the urban mainstream. Because Mooncake’s ensemble of trays create a continuous surface, it is as if the food makes up a continuous, communal meal. This offers a new social dimension to the usual individualistic dinner, a shared eating adventure."

“At the conception phaze, I was on a consulting trip to Fogo Island in the East of Canada—where I was mesmerized by the terrain, which was almost tundra-like, almost arctic. I love that kind of landscape, where we are challenged in our aloneness and invited to be other than what we are in our busy, overfilled city lives. It inspired me to consider the moon surface as a palette around which to construct this piece.”

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“Form is more than function, it is more than a backdrop for function. Form inspires creativity. In that way, I see the dark moon surface of Mooncake as both a receiver and an active participant in the function of the design. It asks us to be creative, to add something of ourselves to complement or complete it–it’s yearning for us to add ourselves to it because it is so barren.”

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Like the best eating experiences should be, creating Mooncake was a sensual undertaking. “In the initial construction, I made drawings and then I wanted to sculpt something by hand. I wanted to physically run my hands over the lines to determine how deep the inclines should be and find the shapes using my body,” says Tong. The mould was then vacuum formed into food grade styrene. +tongtong intends the concept to be developed into a product line of injection moulded plastic trays that range from simple tops with subtle impressions to more complex versions to suit a variety of meals and dining experiences.

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Mooncake’s namesake references the moon, with its dark surface undulations and crevices, as well as the food we love most, cake.

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The Mooncake table by +tongtong

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Guests at the Toronto Design Exchange enjoying Mooncake’s shared eating experience.

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mooncake island

“At the conception phaze, I was on a consulting trip to Fogo Island in the East of Canada—where I was mesmerized by the terrain, which was almost tundra-like, almost arctic. I love that kind of landscape, where we are challenged in our aloneness and invited to be other than what we are in our busy, overfilled city lives. It inspired me to consider the moon surface as a palette around which to construct this piece.”

Inaugurated at the recent re-launch of the Design Exchange in Toronto, where chef Matthew Matheson served exotic foods to 150 guests directly on the trays, including a broth with clouds of floating broccoli florettes that lent the moon lakes a gently green aura, the verdict was that Mooncake’s effect was ‘social activation’. “Under dramatic sunset lighting and a Sigur Ros playlist, the guests felt transported to another world,” beams Tong—a world where the participatory eating adventure reigns supreme.

Mooncake by + tongtong from + tongtong on Vimeo.

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