Technology is always moving forward. We use it not only to help manage our lives and business, but also to have fun. Technology can probably be applied to any aspect of life but has the potential of technology in relation to food been fully explored? We look at latest developments, focusing on the areas of food preparation and the table experience and consider how things may develop in the future.
Some restaurants embrace technology and bring it to the forefront of their kitchen and dining experiences, but others are more reluctant. Going to some restaurants or pop-ups is like going to a gallery, leaving all digital distractions in the cloakroom – this is where art meets food and we admire the chef’s artistry.
At the other end of the scale, when we cook for ourselves at home, we are often so busy that we look at food as just a necessity, something to keep us going after a hard day at work while we settle down for a box set binge. Technology helps make this happen with as minimum fuss as possible, but not much else.
But when we have a little more time, we all love to eat for joy and sometimes even play with our food. We build experiences by playing, personalizing or creating something new or different and sometimes by seeing all that creativity done for us.
There is a place for technology in the restaurant. If the technology is carefully chosen and purposefully designed to complement the preparation method it can help chefs create memorable food experiences time and time again.
The world of 3D printing has the potential to add much to the food experience. With a 3D printer you can combine ingredients and create shapes that may not feasibly be done by hand effectively hacking food itself and creating something new. Printers can be used to prepare accessories to be added to dishes handcrafted by a chef, see pic 1.
So technology can enable the creation of original combinations of ingredients that we might not have the time, the skills or even the physical ability to do. There are still many new tastes and flavour combinations out there waiting to be discovered and maybe a 3D printer is the tool we need to make them work.
Artificial Intelligence is an area that could revolutionize the preparation process. Following a recipe can be repetitive and time consuming, it can encroach on our creativity. But it’s possible for Chefs to pass on their knowledge to AI machines with the ability to learn. AI has the potential to then free the chef from routine jobs and AI is a very good learner. It doesn’t forget, it doesn’t get bored and it doesn’t need supervising.
Moving on to the table experience, we need to explore further how chefs can use technology to make dining experiences more interactive. Technology can enhance the food but also help in other aspects, it’s not just about the food!
At nūfood we’ve discovered that people find observing the preparation process fascinating. It’s fun to watch a 3D printer at work. We can deliver food accessories literally under the diner’s nose with techniques like just in time 3D printing
And as food is being served, it can be further hacked by introducing interesting ingredients that perhaps react to the environment, the touch of cutlery or other stimuli such as heat.
Others have already shown how we can augment our dining environment with sight and sound. For example iV: an audio agency have composed a series of sounds that make food taste more spicy or more sweet, served by chef Jozef Youssef at his gastrophysics and multi sensory dining restaurant in London. Just imagine where we can go next with this as VR expands. Would you like your soup served in Renaissance France sir, or perhaps you’d like fruit salad in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon!
Technology doesn’t just have to be about how it changes the restaurant experience. For example 3D printing could quite easily be utilized in domestic kitchens. 3D printers are portable enough to have in the home and can be guided with easy to use apps. These apps could be used to get recipes and ideas from the best in the world or your best friend. Imagine creating a perfectly balanced bite that has been designed by a top chef which you can recreate at home with a printer, something you could also customize with a few little tweaks using your app. And how about this for livening up a text: what if your significant other sent you lots of love using 3D printed sun blushed sweet tomatoes in the shape of a heart with the message tantalizingly emerging from your printer over a couple of minutes and then ready to pop on your pasta? Maybe you’d never want to eat it!
I hope we’ve wetted your appetite a little by sharing our thoughts on what technology has the potential to do for the food experience. And please check out nūfood to see what we’re doing in the world of liquid 3D printing.
About the author
Vaiva Kalnikaitė is the founder and CEO of an experience design company, Dovetailed based in Cambridge UK. She is dedicated towards creating novel technologies to elevate our dining experiences. She is also interested in experimenting with new materials that we use for cooking. Her latest innovation in 3D food printing, nūfood (nufood.io) has won multiple awards and has received international media coverage.