With Tyler Florence, Michael Voltaggio and plenty of robots in attendance, Seattle’s Smart Kitchen Summit offers a strange vision of the future.
I HAVE SEEN the kitchen of the future, and we’re all going to need a lot more counter space.
The Smart Kitchen Summit convened in Seattle recently, alighting in the grand lobby and the somewhat-less-grand recital auditorium of Benaroya Hall — quite a step up from its cramped beginnings in Sodo, way back in 2015. The lanyarded crowd swarmed in and out of plenary sessions on topics such as “I, Chef-Bot: Applying AI to the World of Food & Cooking,” and talks like “You Are Eating Software.” The average attendee: white, male, mid-30s, upscale business-casual. The guys wearing suits looked a little quaint. Networking was rampant.
Around the semicircular mezzanine, up in the air, the gleaming future of the kitchen was arrayed, with different companies presenting the ways they seek to disrupt the food space. (It’s “space” now, not “market,” and disruption, in case you haven’t heard, is a good thing. More vocabulary: “full stack,” “blockchain” and “democratization,” which seems pretty completely divorced from its original meaning.)
If you are hoping for an anthropomorphic kitchenbot that glides around on its wheel-leg, possibly wearing a frilly apron, doing all the things you used to do while you drink a glass of wine and, I don’t know, shop online, I am sorry to disabuse you of your vision. While it seems to be in vogue to refer to them as “robots,” the future of the kitchen looks more like large-ish countertop appliances, and you’re going to need more than one to get everything done.
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The Summit atmosphere had a touch of the infomercial about it — with some of the future still in the prototype phase, the scent of venture capital was in the air. I spoke with one entrepreneur, who proved to be from Croatia, about his robot, the GammaChef. “Like homemade meals? Let me cook for you!” the GammaChef’s banner read. The GammaChef has a place for a pot and a stirring attachment; along the top of the machine are embedded Tupperware-esque containers, some refrigerated, to be filled with the ingredients for what the GammaChef is going to cook for you. You still have to prep and chop, though part of the vision is to partner with a meal-kit service to take care of that; the recipe…