Coming Soon to a Kitchen Near You—3D Printed Food

Bits of the Blast

From fine dining establishments to nursing homes, chefs are starting to take advantage of the applications of 3D printing to create some truly unique foods.

While you may expect to see a 3D printer at work in an engineering firm or design studio, a kitchen may seem like a bit of a stretch. But, as material technologies continue to evolve (see my previous article about materials for more information), 3D printing is popping up in all sorts of interesting new places. From fine dining establishments to nursing homes, chefs are starting to take advantage of the applications of 3D printing to create some truly unique foods.

3D Printed Food Gets fancy

Recent gastronomy trends have been all about pushing the limits as to how food is prepared, presented, and tasted. It is no surprise, then, that cutting-edge fine dining restaurants have been amongst the first to embrace 3D printing.

At last year’s 3D Printshow London 2015, 3D printed food took center stage at the world’s first 3D printed popup restaurant. This collaboration between FabLab Maastricht and Michelin-starred chefs resulted in a one-of-a-kind tasting menu. The nature of 3D printing allows chefs to create edible works of art that would otherwise be next to impossible. One of the featured desserts, for example, was a printed chocolate globe that opened up to reveal compartments filled with flavors inspired by global cuisines.

3D printing is also starting to become a staple in more permanent dining establishments. With the help of a wave of new culinary 3D printers, such as the Foodini, chefs are able to really take their presentations to the next level. Whether they are printing mashed potatoes into a pattern on the side of a plate, crafting doughnuts into unique shapes, or creating architecturally-inspired cake toppers  and chocolate molds, printers allow restaurants to automate processes that once took a high level of skill and patience.

While some restaurants see the power of 3D printing for more refined approaches, others have more whimsical ideas. One printer, for example, prints customizable gummy candies. Anyone with a sweet tooth can choose their shape, flavor, and even toppings. Another printer, which was designed in 2014 by a group of MIT students, allows you to design your own ice cream treat.

Where no food has gone before

Not only can printing change how food is presented, it could even change how food is consumed.

Food designer Chloe Rutzerveld, for one, thinks that 3D printers have the potential to create uniquely sustainable food sources. So far, Rutzerveld has designed a cracker made from edible seeds, yeast, and mushrooms. After they are printed, the crackers are left to sprout for five days, resulting in a nutritionally diverse food product without the waste that is typically associated with the growing and transportation process.

Another place where 3D printing could change the way food is consumed is in nursing homes. As people age, it often becomes more difficult to chew or swallow solid foods. Yet, the texture and appearance of pureed foods leaves much to be desired. With a 3D printer, nursing homes can print pureed foods into the shape of solid foods, providing patients with a more authentic eating experience. The EU is already investing in this unique 3D printing application and several German nursing homes have adopted the technology.

Pepsico has even begun to implement 3D printing in their development process. To create the blades for one of the company’s newest products, Deep Ridged chips, Pepsico used a 3D printed model of the chip.

Whether we download recipes and print them at home, purchase a bag of chips, or dine out on gourmet printed food, 3D printing is sure to change the way we dine. If this trend continues, you may want to keep your eye out for job postings for a Fine Dining CAD Manager.

To read more articles like this one, check out the most recent issue of The Blast.

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