Rafael Tonon is a journalist and food writer who travels the world to taste and write about food. He has published for Vice, Slate, Fine Dining Lovers, The Washington Post, CN Traveler or Atlas Obscura.

We joined him for a conversation about senses, origins, and relationships with food. 


Can you share some insights into your creative process when crafting narratives around food?

Talking about food is always about senses and sensations: it's not just the taste that matters. It is necessary to focus on visual, aroma, and texture aspects, for example. When we talk about a restaurant, we also have to address the atmosphere, the service. The narrative around food is multisensory and plural, so it is always necessary to encompass all these factors.


What role do you believe storytelling plays in shaping people's perceptions and understanding of food?

Storytelling has everything to do with food, especially these days, when having a strong speech helps define who you are. Governments have noticed this (countries like Peru and Spain, for example), restaurants too and, more and more, chefs are following this path: the way they talk about ingredients, for example, focusing on their origin, is what has helped to highlight their work on dishes.

There is a very famous chef, Andoni Luis Aduriz, who argues that stories are our sixth taste, that is, the ability to tell a narrative is what defines the experience we have of eating in a specific place.



How do you infuse your unique voice and personality into your food narratives?

In the pieces and texts I write, I always try to observe as much as possible and explain how people create a relationship with food. I think my biggest challenge is how to lend my voice to these people: I mean, interviewing people about different points of view and organizing it all into a mosaic that can help tell the story of a restaurant or a cuisine. My reporting always tries to bring a lot of context, but with very personal aspects that I try to encompass.


Can you let us in on what you're planning to bring to the table for THU JAPAN?

In my talk (which I'm calling the “pre-dinner talk)”, I'll address how food has become such an important factor in storytelling in the modern world and how narratives around food have led us to believe in divergent stories about the way we eat around the world — in fact, we all eat the same, in only subtly different ways.