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Not A Single Origin: The box of chocolates that represents multicultural Sydney

Sometime this year a boutique confectioner, Bakedown Cakery, and data visualisation specialists Small Multiples put their heads together to tell the story of multicultural Sydney in a box of chocolates.

Using 2016 Census data as inspiration, they explored the relationship between ethnicity, population and taste in an Australian-first collaboration project.

It sounded fascinating.

And delicious.

I logged in to buy the chocolates, only to find out they were sold out.

Intrigued by the story, I made my way to Bakedown Cakery in St Leonards. The small shop was filled with chocolates of all shapes and sizes. Cactuses, robots, dark chocolate lips, these chocolates were a feast for the eyes. Little wonder. Jen Lo, the founder of the artisan chocolate and cake boutique, worked as a designer for a time before she opened the store in 2015.

I also shot an email to Small Multiples about these chocolates. Its co-founder Jack Zhao responded. Turns out Small Multiples is a data company that takes cold hard data and turns them into “digital products”.  And Jack wants to represent information in a way that goes beyond an excel spreadsheet to something that is easily accessible and tell meaningful stories.

I think they certainly succeeded with these box of chocolates.

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Small Multiples calculated and identified 12 Sydney suburbs where there was the most prevalent cultural saturation from a particular ethnic group. It was then up to Jen Lo of Bakedown Cakery, to use her skills to represent the core origins of these Sydney suburbs. The aim was to reveal the relationship between cultural backgrounds and the locations in which they live.

Jen spent months researching and developing distinctive tastes for each suburb. She based their flavour profiles on the local ingredients, spices and native delicacies found in the area.

“For a suburb such as Westmead with a strong Indian population, flavours including cardamom, coconut and cashew join forces to represent the ancestry of its residents. Whereas, Concord with its large Italian influence sees a chocolate flavoured with strawberry paired with a tart balsamic vinegar caramel, to demonstrate its heritage,” Lo explains.

“Each chocolate is unique to the dominant cultural heritage of the suburb, and while varied, are equally delicious.”

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Titled Not A Single Origin, these chocolates took about a year from concept to creation and sold out in weeks.

For Jack Zhao of Small Multiples, Not A Single Origin is a true taste of the flavours of Sydney.

“The origins of Sydney’s population encompass more than 200 different ancestries. We have used taste to help people experience the extraordinary diversity in Australia’s most populous city, with the goal of making data delicious … This project has shown us that no matter where you live, from Concord to Cabramatta or Greenacre to Manly, immigrants have helped define places with their cultural traditions exemplified by the flavours they brought to the Australian palate.”

The chocolate tries to capture the stories of 5 million Sydney-siders in 12 bite-sized pieces of chocolate.

“Not only have we made data interesting and delicious, we have also celebrated our diversity as a city and country through a shared love of chocolate,” says Jack.

I love the fact that Sydney is a multicultural melting pot. I take for granted that I can get Korean food in Eastwood, or hop in the car and travel to the heart of Lakemba for some Middle Eastern fare.

More than food, I am thrilled that the world is at our doorstep. That we can step outside to taste and experience different cultures.

I can’t wait for the second batch of Not A Single Origin. I love the concept of representing Sydney’s diversity in a box of chocolates and would like to try the flavours of the different suburbs. Hopefully sometime soon.

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October 2018
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