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ex-NOMA fermentation chief 'david zilber' cooks up food with bacteria, microbes, and yeast

David Zilber ferments to dish out flavors


The former Head of Fermentation at NOMA, the Denmark gastronomic restaurant slated to shut down in 2024, continues to peruse bioscience into making bursting-flavors food through bacteria, microbes, and yeast. David Zilber has had his eyes on redesigning the art of food making by infusing grown dirt-dubbed products of nature in hot dishes and grilled meats.


His knack for fermentation stems from working at a butcher shop in Toronto years back where he slouched over the steel kitchen island, making fermented sausages, Genoa salami, and chorizo with freeze-dried bacteria. Little did he know, he would work in the laboratory from where the bags of bacteria he was adding to his meals originally came from, a detail he shares with Eames Institute.

fermentation david zilber
images courtesy of Eames Institute | photos by Klaus Langelund



Since 2020, Zilber has been holed up at his lab in Hørsholm, Denmark for Chr. Hansen, the bioscience company that the fermentation chief prefers to think of as a food business. The turn of events lured Zilber to read Chr. Hansen’s claim that 1.5 billion people eat something made with its microbes every day and wanted to test whether or not their statement stood true.


He went in, claimed the title ‘application scientist’, and now curiously, as usual, applies microbes in recipes in hopes of offering solutions to fix up bland and traditional meals organically. The fermentation chief sees dishes not just as artworks on plates or lockdown projects people might fancy working on, but as full-pledged appetizing table-served architecture that bridges people with a heightened awareness of nature and its brainchildren.


Zilber looks into modernizing his techniques by drawing from modern technologies such as data and artificial intelligence. While he recognizes that injecting advanced, non-human technologies into food making and its facets, whether or not that is a good thing poses a different question for him. For the food and fermentation scientist, what matters in his food discourse tugs at design.

fermentation david zilber
former head of fermentation at NOMA continues to peruse bioscience into making bursting-flavors food



Redesigning the food systems


More than his roles as an application slash food scientist at Chr. Hansen, David Zilber seems to shoulder a deep-seated responsibility to effect changes in the way people consume food on a macro level. Design plays a role in food, and Zilber sees it as an element that drives beings, including people, to intentionally change the environment. By modifying what nature makes, people receive what they planted.


Zilber says that design can be an expression of art and vice-versa. When a situation calls for both, both flow from and into the other. At times, design in food can also just serve pleasure for a diner’s enjoyment, and the fermenter states there is nothing wrong with that. 


His eyes land on the supply chain and the food design of the manufacturing industry rather than restaurants and diners. He is reluctant to identify as a food designer, but his bandwidth at least expands up to designing food systems. The fermenter recalls his time at NOMA, his culinary playground, where his job description was topped with ‘make cool shit’.

fermentation david zilber
David Zilber has his eyes on redesigning the art of food making by infusing grown dirt-dubbed products of nature



Switching over to the bioscience food industry deems as an exciting venture for Zilber whose desire is to touch the lives of far more people than he could in his previous tenures. As an example, he explains that restaurants cook up dishes for trials, to test out what they could implement in the next meals, from a chef’s brain to a diner’s mouth in just a few hours.


He claims that it rarely, if not never, happens for supermarkets whose audience grabs packs and boxes of meals from the shelves, unknown to the fact that they might have taken two-plus years to be conceived. For Zilber, design must cater to the world. It can do this by applying the limited resources and materials it has on hand to create and reinvent. 

fermentation david zilber
his knack for fermentation stems from working at a butcher shop in Toronto and making fermented sausages using bacteria


David Zilber at Chr. Hansen laboratory in denmark

fermentation david zilber
since 2020, Zilber has been holed up at Chr. Hansen, the bioscience company that he prefers to think of as a food business.

fermentation david zilber
Zilber preparing burgers


David Zilber


project info:


name: Design in food

fermenter: David Zilber

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