3D printing has become the 21st century’s new manufacturing tool and is regularly applied in industries such as aerospace, automotive, fashion and healthcare, but in the last few years it has also made its way into professional kitchens. FOODINK is one key example of a company pioneering the use of food 3D printing and its founder, Antony Dobrzensky, believes the technology is an unstoppable force for the food industry.
FOODINK’s best known project and biggest milestone so far is “the world’s first 3D printing restaurant,” where everything is 3D printed on site, including the tables and chairs, the utensils and the food – all nine courses of it! The premiere took place in in Shoreditch, London, lasted three days and hosted 12 guests per day. The restaurant was later showcased in Barcelona and is now set for more worldwide destinations.
The idea was conceived and executed by Dobrzensky, (entrepreneur, technologist, investor) and his multi-talented international team, including chefs Mateu Blanch of Spanish molecular gastronomy restaurant La Boscana, and Joel Castanye an elBulli alumni with Arthur Mamou-Mani as the design advisor. Aside from this core team, Dobrzensky also brings in an outer circle of architects, artists, chefs, designers, engineers, futurists, industrials, inventors and technologists for advice and guidance.
The 3D printers themselves are made by ByFlow, a company based in Maastricht in The Netherlands. ByFlow has specialized in 3D printing since 2009 and in 2015 they developed a 3D food printer called ‘Focus’ which quickly entered the food industry. It’s no wonder FOODINK has partnered with the Dutch company as it says on their official website they believe “we can change the way people make and experience food.” For Dobrzensky too, 3D food printing isn’t just a throwaway trend and he says his team has devoted their knowledge, expertise and creativity to ensure that this revolutionary vision becomes a present experience.
The idea of 3D printed food may seem far fetched or perhaps something for the distant future, but when you consider the drastic changes already happening in the food industry now you can see why restaurants are interested. For example, flavour matters, but in a world dominated by images, what food looks like is becoming more and more important. According to a recent study by Maru/Matchbox 69 percent of millennials take photos of their food before eating it and many of those will be uploaded to social media. It’s no surprise then that Instagram has the power to influence the food we eat and the environment we eat it in. The prosperity for a certain image to go viral is driving restaurants to serve up eye catching dishes and fancy decorative drinks. FOODINK has shown that a 3D food printer can really help a restaurant stand out from competitors by creating new food designs which are impossible to do by hand or with traditional techniques.
Often food can compromise on flavour when the goal is to make it photogenic but for Dobrzsensky he believes they have found a way to not only retain a delicious taste but to keep it nutritious. When asked in a munchies interview, Dobrzsensky stated that “This food is made from all-natural ingredients and is more healthy and nutritious than food in other restaurants.” Chef Castanye adds that “We use the same ingredients but just served in a different way.” It seems that one of the most important factors to FOODINK’s approach is that they don’t disregard the chef and he/she still plays a pivotal role in the process. The fresh ingredients need to be chosen, cooked, blended and put in to tubes and there needs to be the right consistency in order to print successfully.
Food 3D printing is an exciting move for the world of food and technology and there’s a lot of potential. The stage for this change wasn’t set overnight. Years of innovation has led to the precipice of the food 3D printing revolution, and it seems that it is just a matter of time before we see advancements in speed and material capabilities that together will push the technology in to a more user friendly domain. At some point, it might be as common to find a food 3D printer in a restaurant as it is to find a thermomix. We can only wait and see!