daniel ICAZA milson

b. 1995 RISD ‘19 @ Dell Computers.
Panamanian & American artist & designer.


experience, object, and food design

mesclao’ is a restaurant experience I run out of my bedroom in Providence, RI, which stemmed from my desire to meet people from different majors at RISD and to test whether food could connect guests. Since its inception I host one dinner a semester in which students that don’t know each other are invited. Each events’ tableware, interiors, and menu are customized (and sometimes custom-built) to enhance the development of relationships.

This includes an overview of March 13th, 2018’s event, mesclao’s inspiration & trend relevance boards, a business model, and future directions. 

Guests were required to bring a plus one. The only glitch is that they couldn’t know their plus one. These strangers could be people seen around campus or walking on the sidewalk.

When the dinner began, guests were required to make napkins for the person next to them using canvas and scissors. 

Guests were served six courses on the Trougher Table, whose table top could be removed and re-plated between courses. The first courses served were easy fingerfoods. The last courses were more challenging to eat with hands. 


After the event, I sent a survey to attendees. The following are comments and feedback I received March 13th, 2018’s mesclao’ event.

I met many strangers and had amazing conversations about our lives the times and all the that in between. It was unusual, and a little uncomfortable at first, but the evolution of the night was the most impressive part. The growth the intimacy the communion that can occur in the dining experience.” 

The best was the napkins, still have mine shaped like a bird. The worst, hmmm, maybe waiting in the room by ourselves at first it was kinda cold... Like literally it was frigid but also emotionally. But ah hell gotta love those extremes.” 


The food was delicious and the social experience was intimate and empowering. The people invited were super nice and the environment (turf, sitting on the floor) led to positive interactions.” 

 “Enjoyed the most: feeling comfortable and empowered enjoyed the least: not having a place to put my drinks, the wine almost spilled! haha improvement: more deliberate/experimental furniture and food.“ 


Went beyond my expectations. I expected to have intimate conversations with strangers but my interactions and way of being in social situations was also challenged in a good way.” 

The fooood, talking to the chef, cutting napkins, walking to the event with my stranger. Everything was perfect the way it is – looking forward to the next one!” 


Objects & Inspiration

The objects unique to this mesclao’ were the Trougher Table, Pine Thank Yous, Canvas Napkins, and the disposable camera.  
The Trougher Table has a removable top to allow for plating. The camera intends to break barriers in awkwardness. The Pine Thank Yous had coffee beans and a goodbye note to let customers know we were greatful they came and to imply the beginning of spring – a time for connection. The canvas napkins was the first activity for people to break the ice. 

We wanted the objects and activities to foster intimacy and community. The trougher table resembled communal eating of farm animals. We tested foods that were easy and difficult to eat with your hands. We anticipated that people would grow more comfortable eating non-finger foods as the night progressed. For example, toast is easy and rice is more difficult. People were so comfortable by the end of the night they were passing eachother handfuls of salad

Alinea’s use of different tableware, dishes, and gastronomy to create a memorable meal inspired me. I wanted my customers to share that sense of magic with each other.


Before deciding on the Bring-a-Stranger model I had to iterate on many dining experience concepts. Some themes included Shabbat dinner, Korean, and Waffle House. I learned that I needed a smaller space, floor seating, and custom objects.

Click here for mesclao’s business plan.


My desire to meet new people at school and my positive experiences eating while studying abroad in Seoul, Korea inspired mesclao’. I feel communal eating with strangers will soon be trending. The development of mesclao’ aligns with Bompas & Parr’s speculation that the food industry will soon shift into the access/shared economy. 

“The food and leisure sectors will shift from traditional restaurnant and bar formats to peer-to-peer experiences.”  –Bompas & Parr

Future Directions

Catalog of explorations I’ve conducted in food design that I will integrate in future mesclao’ events. I want to use design to foster intimacy between people that don’t know each other. I design tableware and food objects that seek to surprise and delight guests experience.

Tableware that creates dialogue between courses. The jus from one dish seasons the next dish.

Digital fabrication techniques in future dishes like laser cutting to reveal something unexpected.

Molds of different food objects for the creation of new food objects. The strawberry is actually guava, for example. I am making a fruit salad from these. 

I plan to host the next two mesclao’ events with Discover, a platform for collaboration between RISD and Brown. We intend to bring professors from different majors at both institutions and have them enjoy a mesclao’ experience. monsoon, the London-based design collective, will be in charge of the PR and post-event documentation. We hope to release zines cataloguing the conversations that came from the dining experience. The events will most likely be held in November 2018 and February 2019. 

mesclao’ would not be possible without Maria Gerdyman, my partner in this adventure. Please look at her work here and here