Anyone Can Cook -- Inside Ratatouille's Kitchen

Jun Han Cho, Athena Xenakis, Stefan Gronsky, Apurva Shah


The passion for cooking and food are the central theme of Pixar's recent film - Ratatouille. This complex and multi-faceted problem posed many challenges that were solved using diverse computer graphics and production techniques. In this course we will comprehensively cover all aspects including modeling, dressing, shading, lighting and effects.

The story called for working cooking stations and sloppy mess of a busy, functional kitchen. We will review some of the set concepts, visual framework and even dynamics simulation techniques that were used to create this illusion. We will illustrate with several examples including final plated dishes, mis-en-place setups and the Food Locker.

The challenge of shading food on Ratatouille was to work within the stylized look of the film and yet keep it recognizable and appealing to eat. We developed subtle illumination techniques that added up to a general approach we could use on a variety of objects. We will breakdown examples ranging from vegetables to plated dishes.

Lighting played a key role in making the food look appetizing, a task further complicated by different types of food such as bread, cheese, soup and wine that pushed the boundaries of standard surface based lighting. We will discuss our general approach to lighting food as well as specific challenges and solutions posed by the various dishes.

The film called for diverse cooking techniques ranging from chopping and peeling, to stirring and ladling. We will discuss Ratatouille's creative problems and the underlying challenge they represent as well as our solutions to them. We will also apply it to various case studies like chopping carrots, rolling dough and preparing potato-leek soup.

Although the course specifically discusses how we dealt with food in Ratatouille we want to emphasis that the basic approach and techniques can be used for other complex, multi-disciplinary visual challenges.

Paper (PDF)

Available as Siggraph 2007 Course Notes, Course Number 30