(28 Jul 2016) LEAD IN:
The 3D-printed food revolution is here, but you may need a big budget if you want to be part of it.
A new pop-up eatery in London claims to be the world's first 3D-printing restaurant, serving a futuristic nine-course tasting menu for the price of 250 British pounds (approx. $330 USD).
At this speed it can hardly be described as fast food. But then again, this restaurant is aimed at much more discerning palettes.
In London's trendy Shoreditch district, what's claimed to be the world's first 3D-printing restaurant is throwing open its doors for a limited three nights, treating a lucky few to its slowly-constructed dishes.
It's called 'Food Ink' and it's not just the food that's 3D-printed, it's also the chairs, plates, cutlery, even this rose vase.
Food Ink is the work of founders Antony Dobrzensky and Marcio Barradas who teamed up with Eindhoven-based 'byFlow' to use their food-capable, multi-material 3D printers.
"Food Ink is a place where you go and everything around you is live 3D-printed before your very eyes," says Dobrzensky.
"The chair that we are sitting on right now, at this table, the knife, the fork, the spoon, the cups, the plates and even the food, over a multi-course, Michelin-calibre, high-level gastronomy experience, everything comes magically out of printers before your very eyes."
Organisers say just seven minutes after opening the booking process, all thirty seats for the three-night pop-up sold out. Each evening they host just ten dinner guests.
For 250 British pounds (approx. $330 USD) guests are served a nine-course menu, mostly designed on a computer.
This desert, named 'London after Eight', includes letters printed with a passion fruit puree.
It's finished with chocolate, mint and whipped cream.
To make this concept work, Food Ink took on chefs, a food designer and an engineer.
"We take the food - and it can be anything you want, as freshly prepared or locally-sourced as you want, as healthy as you'd like - and we make it into a paste or puree in a blender or even by hand, and then it goes in these cartridges and the printer moves very precisely, in the same you would squeeze a pastry bag to make icing on a cake," explains Dobrzensky.
"But instead of the human hand of a chef, the robotic hand of the 3D printer can guide the cartridge very precisely."
Most printed foods are unheated and often mixed with a natural algae-based thickener to prompt it to keep shape after printing.
Using 3D-printing, chefs can combine various ingredients in tiny different layers - a difficult challenge for even the most steady-handed chef.
Mateu Blanch is Food Ink's culinary advisor and works as a chef at Spain-based La Boscana.
He says he's excited about the opportunities this kind of technology gives the world of gastronomy.
"Well, the truth is that we can improve a lot with the 3D-printing, because doing it by hand it would be impossible to realise the creations that can be made with the 3D printer," he says.
"Here we have seen for example with the deserts, sweets, savouries, for a labyrinth, that is made with geometric shapes which are impossible to do by hand."
Blanch's colleague at Food ink, La Boscana chef Joel Castanye, previously worked at Michelin three-star restaurant elBulli. It was ranked by Restaurant Magazine as the best in the world for several years.
Food Ink says it's taking the first steps in paving the way for the whole industry to adopt this unique method.
The restaurant's partner company, Eindhoven-based 'byFlow', has already used its 3D printer for personalised cake icing at supermarket bakeries in the Netherlands.
Blanch says he also hopes to adopt the technology at La Boscana.
But what does it actually taste like?
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