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From shelf to saucer: Tablescapes by Detlef Klatt at IFEX

Detlef's work included exhibition design and product development for various wholesale companies in Germany, Japan, Hong Kong and China. This year, he will highlight native Filipino food in ‘The Manila Gusto Gallery,’ a series of tablescapes that will be unveiled  at IFEX Philippines 2015. CITEM

MANILA, Philippines — For the uninitiated, food exists solely as a means to satisfy the need for nourishment. But for German designer Detlef Klatt, food is a luxurious experience that deserves to be prepared and packaged as such.

“I’m all about using style and presentation to add to the overall experience of eating,” Detlef explained.

Detlef is referring to his fine practice of combining food with cutlery, china, and other dining implements to create dramatic table settings, otherwise known as "tablescaping." A master florist and home design specialist by trade, Detlef was commissioned by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) to create a new concept in food presentation that will combine the best Philippine food and home style products. It is Manila FAME meets IFEX Philippines, two of CITEM’s signature events that promote design, lifestyle, and innovation in home, fashion and food.

The food experience

To support his point, the highly decorated designer cites the practice of presenting food as gifts. Before, the de facto informal food gift meant either wine or chocolates that were paired with flowers. Now, the practice has expanded to include just about any food product, for as long as it is packaged elegantly.

Detlef said styling enhances the overall dining experience, and turns even the most mundane food items into valuable gifts. There is so much potential for nurturing this practice in the Philippines, especially with the local tradition of giving "pasalubong" food as souvenirs.

He said this tradition is likewise widely practiced in Europe, where people consider it a privilege to receive food gifts that have been personally  prepared, cooked, and beautifully packaged by the giver.

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Local materials for local flavors

Having spent the past two decades going to and from the Philippines to source materials for his Germanhome design firm, Detlef has developed an affinity for local fare. The Philippines, he said, has unique local resources with a hundred different stories, which can be used as inspiration for food preparation.

Detlef cited his experience with a local delicacy while spending a weekend in Sorsogon, where caramel-coated pili nuts were served to hotel guests and were wrapped in banana leaves, giving the guests a totally warm feeling of receiving a special treat!

"The whole thing just looks as wonderful as it tastes,” he said. “In the province, this choice of packaging material is just based on what’s abundant. But for me, it feels like one of the most luxurious packaging materials for their product. Packaging is usually mass-produced and machine-made. But here, suddenly, you have packaging that is obviously done by hand, and it adds to the whole experience by telling a story about where the product comes from.  Instead of wrapping it in cheap and clear plastic, this simple product from the province has now been turned into a magnificent and meaningful treat.”








Room for improvement

The challenge, he said, lies in making local culture rise above overwhelming amount of fast food and throwaways.

“Globalization has made everybody in the world lose a little culture, but I find it unfortunately excessive in the Philippines. In some places I visited, there is still a lack of local culture in presenting food,” he lamented.

Detlef was quick to say, though, that culture in food presentation has not died completely. There remains places all over the country where people still serve food in baskets lined with banana leaves. “Not only is it simple and beautiful, but very sustainable as well,” he said.

He stressed that local food businesses should capitalize on the country’s rich heritage to market local food. If there is a story behind a certain product—special fruit from a certain place, for example—one could easily add value by telling a story through packaging and presentation.

Taking Filipino food to the global stage

Detlef’s food presentation and tablescapes have been unveiled at "The Manila Gusto Gallery" as it opened at the 10th International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Philippines at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City on May 21-24.

"The theme is mostly contemporary, but inspired by elements from the 1920s and the '30s," Detlef said.

The theme focuses on the grandeur of Manila’s pre-war era cafes and restaurants. Set in the premier show for Asia’s ethnic food and ingredients, Detlef hopes that "The Manila Gusto Gallery" will elevate the consumption of food into something that satisfies both body and artistic sensibilities.


The International Food Exhibit (IFEX) Philippines 2015 is the premier show for the finest ethnic Asian food, ingredients, and raw materials. Organized by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, the exposition features over 750 exhibitors from all over the world, and is recognized as an official event of the 2015 APEC Summit. For more information, visit

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