There’s been a lot of talk lately about how robots will change the world of restaurants, and it’s no wonder; with everything from fully robotic restaurants to food robot unicorns, it’s easy to imagine that it won’t be long before the machines take over.
While much of the conversation is about the impact of robots on things like labor and front of house experience, one of the less explored impacts is taste. However, that might soon change because, according to culinary scientist Ali Bouzari, there’s a good chance robot food might actually be better.
Bouzari, who helped with the development of robot burger restaurant Creator as the CEO of food research company Pilot R&D, spoke last week at the reThink Food conference about how high-precision, intelligent machines could potentially create food that’s tastier than the stuff made in a human-powered fast food restaurant.
One example Bouzari gave is how Creator grinds meat. Not only is each Creator burger made of freshly ground beef, but the burgerbot also makes a Blumenburger-like patty consisting of parallel meat strands.
What’s a Blumenburger? It’s the brainchild of (you guessed it) chef Heston Blumenthal, who realized that when you bite into a parallel-stranded burger, the mouthfeel and taste is much better. According to Bouzari, while most of the high-end culinary world has followed Blumenthal’s lead when it comes to parallel-stranded meat burgers, the high-volume requirements of fast-food burgers has meant frozen hockey pucks made of scrambled meat are still par for the course in the vast majority of today’s chain restaurant burgers. But with the Creator, parallel stranded burgers are now possible within a fast food production environment.
Bouzari also believed that robots could do things like mix up sauce patterns on the bun to create more variety, which would help counter the human brain’s natural tendency to tune out a more homogenous sensory experiences with each successive bite.
“This is why you have tasting menus where you are left wanting more,” said Bouzari. “This type of sauce dispenser could conceivably create a pattern on a bun that is one step ahead of your palette,” he said.
While Bouzari said a Creator burger is in some ways a burger that no human could create, he also had a warning about moving too fast into a world of robot-made food.
“Robotics can do some amazing things if we don’t get ahead of ourselves and get carried away and forget that food is a very rudimentary, what-if medium to work with,” said Bouzari. “As long as we remember that, we can let the geniuses who create robots and other technology help us explore [food] step by step.”