Cooking for the future with new technology

Based on conversations with the other CORE – Cooking for the future –project, restaurants and other professional kitchens all around Europe are facing the same problem, from where to find kitchen staff and especially cooks? Young people lack the interest to step into a world of professional cooking, which traditionally has been a world of unautomated handcraft. Could the answer be automation, robotics, and 3d printing? The idea of this article is to inspire and bring new kind of ideas for the reader.

If we quickly think about automation, robotics and work, we mostly likely also think about making people unnecessary in processes and that by it´s negative meaning, because it will increase unemployment. In this case, it might be good to make people unnecessary in the professional kitchen if we lack people, who are interested to work in there. And in other hand robots and automation can´t function in the customer serving industry, without humans being a part of the process, because robots can´t know what kind of taste and smell people like or love. Robots need to be programmed and processes need to be planned so that they can produce food, which people are willing to pay. If we think closely, that´s what we do even nowadays in the professional kitchen.

Cooks are planning the menus, testing new recipes, setting up the kitchen to function efficiently and after that, cooking hard, by repeating the same type of cooking processes, night after night, as fast as they can. Maybe robot´s, automation and 3d-printing can do the repetitive part of actual cooking and cooks can concentrate on the creative parts of the cooking. For example, 3d printing of food, opens a completely new world of personalized nutrition content of each dish, which is customized by customers individual needs. We should also remember that automation has already been a part of kitchen work for a long time, especially in the fast food industry. Challenge in there is, that people are mainly in the role of low wage button pusher and there is no room for creativity and appreciation of work and profession.

Maybe we are afraid of term programming. And we might think that it´s too far from the cook’s profession. Programming of a cooking robot or automated cooking system in the professional kitchen doesn´t mean actual coding, which is done by the manufacturer’s engineers as a part of building the system or a robot. Programming is something that we do all the time in our lives. We program our car navigator to find our way to different destinations and in the kitchen, we set up the oven to right heat or even select automated processes to roast meat, etc. Programming of a kitchen robot or an automated cooking system is not far from that.

By providing a new type of job for future cooks, we might be able to increase the interest of this new generation of young people to take a step into the world of cooking. This new world of cooking lacks heavy work in unpleasant conditions and working hours, but has still a lot of room for creativity and provides the possibility to interact with new technology. We can also indirectly learn from robots and automation. When we plan layouts and methods for automation, we have to think many processes from other angles, because robots and automation can´t do everything the same way that humans do and in other hands, they can perform actions and movements which humans can´t or haven´t used to do. Some of these new solutions we can implement also into traditional cooks working methods. Based on this it´s worth to consider if robotics and automation is something that we should add to a new joint European curriculum for cooks.

Text: Hermanni Kauranen, Vamia