Travel plants the seed of cultural appreciation in the mind of the traveler, even as a child. Such was the case with Kyle Joseph, a tech entrepreneur who was an avid traveler at a young age. His travels sparked his desire to learn about and appreciate different types of food and the cultures behind those foods.
‘I was lucky to live in London when I was a kid and travel a lot through Europe, and I saw how connected those cultures were to food,’ said Joseph. ‘I just love that they could share who they were and what their culture was with us through a dish, and I always wanted to find a way to reinvent that and share it with the world.’
His solution was an interactive exhibit in which guests could experience first-hand the history, culture, and make-up of some of their favorite foods.
‘There is so much beyond eating when it comes to food, and I just wanted to try and open that door. Especially in the US, food is becoming so popular, but it’s only on the consumer side of things.’
A couple months into development, Joseph and his team turned to Kickstarter to raise funds and spread the word out about the Foodseum. The team ended up raising $33,000 to help fund its first pop-up exhibit, ‘The Hot Dog and Encased Meats of the World,’ which opened last month at Block 37 on State Street.
The current exhibit consists of three components. A history section, where visitors learn how the hot dog and its variations came to be, an international section, which documents different encased meats found all over the world and a section where visitors can learn how to make their own hot dogs and encased meats at home.
In developing the layout for Foodseum, Joseph and his team decided to incorporate local businesses right into the exhibits. ‘We have a lot of stuff going on with start-ups in Chicago, trying to help food brands grow and trying to help the community grow.’ Many local brands can be found in the museum’s gift shop, and small food brands are occasionally invited to introduce samples of their food to Foodseum visitors.
Interaction plays a big role in the Foodseum. Opportunities to smell, touch, and sometimes taste different things are included throughout the exhibit. Currently, the Foodseum is without a kitchen or a license to provide samples for guests on a daily basis. Joseph hopes to partner with a catering company in the near future so they can provide samples of food more regularly and not just at special events.
After the end of this year, it is unknown whether the Foodseum will keep its pop-up home at Block 37. According to the website, the Foodseum hopes to have found a permanent home in Chicago by 2017. Until then, Joseph is happy to keep inspiring people through food one day at a time.
‘We talk a lot about inspiration in the exhibits, wanting to inspire people, whether it’s to learn more history, to learn more about different cultures and explore flavors, or to learn more about cooking and getting in the kitchen,’ said Joseph. ‘All it is, is trying to get that spark when someone leaves with the idea of ‘OK, I can do this’ or ‘this is cool’ and if that happens, that is success for us.’
The Chicago Foodseum is located in Block 37 on State St. and is free to visit.
Block 37, 108 N State St, Chicago, IL, USA +1 312 261 4700