Getting to know... UGA Pastries: Exploring Flavors With Grasshopper!

February 23rd, 2022 by ShapeDiver

Today you’ll get to know the founder of UGA Pastries, an Israel-based artisanal pastry shop run by Pastry Chef & Product Designer, Michal Lev. She uses Grasshopper and ShapeDiver to create unique online tools that let end users visualize and configure their perfect desserts. Hungry? So are we!

Configure Your Dessert!

In past articles, we've explored several unconventional ways Grasshopper can be used. One of them is for creating web applications, with the help of ShapeDiver, so others can access the power of a Grasshopper file through a simple web browser.

While this application might seem like a perfect fit for obvious industries such as Furniture, Jewelry and AEC, there are plenty of other industries that can also benefit from this approach. For this reason, we decided to bring the spotlight to the Food Industry.

In this article, you'll get to know Pastry Chef Michal Lev. You'll learn why she decided to mix two of her greatest passions: food and design. She discusses how Parametric Design and Additive Manufacturing help her create new experiences and reduce food waste and how she thinks the future of food design will look like. Enjoy!

Video: Product Reel | Michal Lev | Pastry Chef

1. Welcome, Michal. Thank you for joining us today! Tell us a bit about your background.

Hello! Thank you for having me. My name is Michal Lev. I served as a naval officer for a long time and loved to cook and bake for the crew when I had the time. At the first opportunity, I went to study to become a professional pastry chef and after I left the army I worked as a pastry chef.

At the same time, I fulfilled another dream I had – becoming a product designer. I received my master’s degree in Product Design at the Technion University and decided to combine my two biggest passions – food and design. So, after gaining skills in innovative tools, I’m now working as a food designer.


2. Why did you decide to be a Pastry Chef with a Master of Product Design?

In recent years my passion for desserts and design grew. I have always loved baking desserts. From a young age, I would stand next to my father in the kitchen and prepare food but mostly cakes, cookies, and sweet things. In addition, over the years I have liked to paint, do things by hand and I knew that "when I grow up" I would be a designer.

Over the years I realized that there is a potential here to combine these two loves - the food field has a lot of potential for innovation and at the same time we eat with our eyes. For this reason I decided to pursue both lifelong dreams.

3. What are you bringing to the pastry/gastronomy industry?

Customization and user experience - I used innovative design tools and methods while combining my knowledge as pastry chef. It was important to me that beyond the idea and the sketches there would be a dessert on the plate at the end of the process and that it would be delicious!

In the food field, the bottom line is that it should be delicious and appetizing, not just aesthetic or ecological, etc. The field of food design is complex and full of layers from taste, texture, temperatures to the design of colors and appearance to produce an eating experience that is rarely addressed today.


4. How did you learn about Parametric Design / Grasshopper?

During my master studies at the Technion, my lecturer Yoav Sterman guided me on the project. Yoav taught me in several courses and as a part of the project guidance itself, parametric design as well as Grasshopper.

When it was time to plan my project, it seemed the right direction to add mass customization. I implemented the customization in the project using Grasshopper with parameters that give added value to the users beyond beauty – design their own dessert easily.

5. When did you figure out that there was an opportunity to innovate in this space?

The food industry has been very conservative for years - even at my first pastry chef job in a large bakery, I saw a lot of industrial machines use to replace human labour, but not to create innovation - machines that were supposed to save costs and maintain standard production of the familiar and simple desserts we all know, but not to create something new.

Even before that, I knew it was a market with plenty of opportunities for innovation, but when I saw it in the day-to-day work it became obvious to me. Of course, there is innovation in food in terms of healthier materials or more ecological ways of production, but I have hardly found news regarding the appearance of the food itself or the eating experience and thinking about how the customer consumes the product.

6. How is ShapeDiver helping you here?

During the project, I created parametric desserts with the option of customization. Without ShapeDiver they would remain in Grasshopper. ShapeDiver helps me create a better user experience by giving the users access to an intuitive user interface.  With a few sliders to control the parameters of the product, the users can design the dessert while it is instantly preview and change. The new AR feature is a great way to see the actual size of the dessert before ordering it.


7. What's your favorite pastry design and why? What was the inspiration?

My favourite dessert is the biscuit cake - because of the gradient color that combines visibility and taste.

It is the gradient that provides depth to the taste and unlike the desserts we know today has meaning beyond aesthetics. The use case I was designing for is a romantic event – the partners both choose their own favourite taste, and the result is a combination of both. The interesting part is how they blend in taste and appearance. What is the taste of 40% mango and 60% pistachio? It’s never stops to be interesting. 

In addition, it is a dessert that is relatively simple to produce and is very distinct in its use case and the experience it produces. It may sound funny, but the inspiration came from a design of a wooden bench made of laser cut panels connected side by side to create kind of a wave shape.


8. How can Additive Manufacturing or other types of advanced manufacturing processes improve the gastronomy industry?

In my opinion, they will allow us to customize our food and more importantly reduce food waste. About a third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is lost or wasted. Once I purchase a product that is created especially for me, it offers me a product that is most suitable for me without waste. 

In the field of food design our "color palette" is much more complex because of the extensive use of the senses. Innovative tools can help us produce products we never thought we would see on a plate.


9. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

That’s a difficult question - for several years now I have been building myself to reach this moment when I combine design and food. Admitting that this field has not yet been developed, it is difficult to imagine what can be achieved in the next 10 years, with the significant and rapid changes that are happening today. At the same time, I aspire to work in a field that combines the two and create a significant breakthrough with food we never imagine.

10. What's the future of food design?

Until now, technological improvements in the food industry alone haven't been able to solve the problems like food waste, sustainability, and changing consumer attitudes.

There is a need to design services and experience - in the eating experience, taste design, texture, shopping experience, appetizing, change eating patterns, reduce food waste, and make our food sustainable. Ultimately food is an experience and not just a need for survival. It is deeply related to our culture and sensory experience.

I hope that food companies will understand the value of food designers, and it will become a necessary profession. As designers, we can make use of design tools and design methods together with teams engaged in development today to solve those problems in the future.

- Well, thank you very much for your time, Michal. This has been an excellent overview!

Thank you as well for having me!

That’s it for this new edition of <<Getting to know..>> Don’t forget to follow our friends from UGA Pastries directly at their Facebook and Instagram accounts!

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