Debating what to make for dinner this morning, I reached for my phone to log into Pinterest, an app I have recently found myself using almost every day. My roommate, who is quite an experienced user, got me hooked this year. I knew that I had butternut squash that was close to expiring. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it, but I knew that I could find inspiration on Pinterest. Within seconds, I excitedly pinned Julia Frey’s recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Spiced Lentils, Feta, and Pine Nuts.
Later, reflecting on my experience, I realized how easy it was for me to locate a new recipe for a unique meal that utilized ingredients I had on hand. 15 years ago, this probably would not have been possible, and I would have been stuck making stale recipes from memory, scouring a recipe book (I may or may not have had) for something that could work, or calling my mom to rack her brain for the same.
Today, technology touches the kitchen and culinary process in numerous ways at every stage. We have all experienced the endless stream of brunch pictures and tasty videos on Facebook. We have watched as recipes transitioned from books…to email chains…to allrecipes.com…to seemingly every website/social network. An entire community and culture have been built around food, influencing our experience from planning and prep to actual cooking and consuming. Cooking has become an activity/skill for all (not just those time or skill), as technology has been implemented to eliminate certain pain points. Don’t have time to go to the store or missing an ingredient? Not to worry, you can get your groceries delivered…sometimes within the hour. Work long hours and struggle to justify meal prep? Meal kits are the solution for you! HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Plated…Take your pick! Don’t understand the recipe instructions? Watch a video! What could be next?
To me, each of these innovations has successfully eased the cooking process in some way at some stage. They do, however, require human intervention or effort as well. Recipes from Pinterest or Joy the Baker’s blog still need cooking. HelloFresh customers still have to chop their veggies and simmer their sauces. New investments in robotics, however, may eliminate the human element in culinary arts entirely.
Meet Moley, the reliable robot chef who never “burns the pine nuts or muddles up bicarb and baking powder.” Conceived in 2014 by computer scientist Mark Oleynik, Moley is the world’s first robotic kitchen and the future of cooking, according to some.
The Moley prototype, appearing at the International Robotics show, was the product of 12 months of collaborative development. As shown in the pictures, the innovation features a futuristic looking robot built into a small, beautifully designed kitchen. According to the company website, “a pair of fully articulated robotic hands now reproduce the entire function of human hands with the same speed, sensitivity, and movement. The cooking skills of Master Chef Tim Anderson, winner of the BBC Master Chef were recorded on the system – every motion, nuance and flourish – then replayed as his exact movements through the robotic hands…It cooks with the skill and flair of a master chef.”
Set to launch this year, Moley will be unveiled with an updated consumer version, featuring the four key kitchen items: robotic arms, oven, hob, and touchscreen unit. The kitchen is operated by a touch screen or remotely via smartphone. “When not in use, the robotic arms retract from view. In robotic use, glass screens glide across the unit, enclosing it for safe use when there’s no-one home.” Motley is also capturing attention for its iTunes-style library, which boasts a growing collection of recipes from around the world. The website explains that it will initially require a plate of ingredients, but, eventually, the system will be accessible anywhere and “a delicious meal will await your arrival home!”
In the words of its creators, “Moley is turning the dream of unlimited access to chefs and their recipes worldwide into reality, with the option of the robot creating their dishes for you; producing meals from around the world or even cooking your own recipes and sharing them with others all in your own home.” Undoubtedly, Moley is impressing people across industries including the restaurant field, airline industry, kitchen development, and even chef training schools. In my opinion, however, this represents a dark future for cooking. Throughout the course of history, cooking has been a place for traditions, creativity, and warmth. Families and friends bond over creating meals together, sharing family recipes, teaching technique. People express themselves through cooking. While this robot aims for efficiency and accuracy, mistakes in cooking can sometimes create the best surprises. To me, a robot in the kitchen would make the social center of many homes a cold, unfeeling place. It also eerily reminds me of Smart house…and we all know how that ended. What do you think?