The New Gastroconomy: how technology is making a vibrant, inclusive urban food culture

Gastronomy is the study of food and culture.  The ethic should be universal, but the world of gastronomy has too often been elitist, stuffy. Now technology (from production systems to social media) is creating a new gastroconomy, breaking down barriers to bring the culture of food to the people.

New systems that are far less capital intensive are making it possible for the freshest ideas to emerge — and for people to build community around them.

The movement is cooperative, participatory, fast-paced and centered around connection — connecting people to each other and connecting people to their food.

Breaking the Barriers to market entry

Gathering around the table to share ideas has been an essential, organizing principle for creative exchange from the ancient world to the modern coffeehouse.  But for those with a culinary vision, finding the economic means to express their art has proven difficult. Now a young chef who doesn’t have access to the necessary funding to open a brick and mortar restaurant has options. He or she can start a pop-up restaurant concept, renting or borrowing space and bringing a spontaneous, performance aspect to the restaurant form. Or they can take their craft literally on the road with a food truck.  Social media and online word-of-mouth marketing make it possible for the chef to find an audience and for the audience to find the chef. This person-to-person connection is redefining what an authentic food experience is.


Artisans who are too small or too experimental for the established distribution system can sell their wares online and connect face to face with customers at temporary food marketplaces that are organized online and “advertised” through social media. When people can’t meet, QR codes attached to the products can take shoppers to a video or message about what they’re buying and who made it.

And amateurs — or even a mix of amateurs and professionals — can start their own gastronomic journeys through interactive projects like crowd-sourced cookbooks and underground supper clubs. Beyond attracting local participants, supper clubs are now tapping into online communities to invite tourists to attend for a real and super-local dining experience.


One of the worst side effects of modern urban life has been distancing people from their source of food. Food gets produced somewhere far away and comes to the city consumer-packaged and disconnected from its source. New systems of urban food production are bringing the farm to the people, along with a new sense of ownership that is transforming consumers into co-producers.

Small and unlikely spaces are being reclaimed for food production — from vacant lots, to alleyways, to fire escapes, to office building rooftops and even the roofs of school buses.  Professional and amateur growers are joining with their fellow citizens, from kids to seniors, to raise their own food at edible schoolyards, community gardens and urban farms. Innovations in vertical farming, hydroponics, recirculating tank systems, and simple hoop-houses have pushed the boundaries of climate and space.

The locavore movement is rooting people to their cities in new ways. By eating and celebrating the wild and farmed foods of their region, and by championing and supporting local culinary innovators, people are engaging their food with new enthusiasm, supporting their local economy, and building a fuller sense of place and identity.