Fabulous, fanciful 3D-printed food is coming to a very classy dinner table near you.
3D printing is one of the most prominent futuristic trends. Thus far, the method has been primarily used to create objects made of metal, resin, and plastic, but the next wave of development for 3D printing is already taking place in the food industry. Imagine putting tasty and nutritional raw ingredients into a printer, selecting the type of food you’d like, and pressing “print.” With the development of bio-printing, it will soon be possible to make anything you desire, from burgers to fruit. Two people at the forefront of this trend are Lynette Kucsma, co-founder of Natural Machines, and Benjamin Feltner, COO of BeeHex.
Both BeeHex and Natural Machines create 3D food printers. BeeHex has been working to send one into the stratosphere: In 2016, the company received a grant from NASA to develop a bot capable of creating delicious dishes for astronauts on missions to Mars. “They were trying to figure out how to deliver foods with certain textures and things like that to astronauts on deep space missions,” Ben told Per La Mente. BeeHex answered the call by designing machines that can 3D-print pizzas in space.
Footage for GIF courtesy of Natural Machines
Natural Machines created what is perhaps the best-known 3D food printer, the Foodini, “a new generation kitchen appliance that combines technology, food, art, and design,” as Lynette puts it. Initially focused on beautiful 3D-printed sweets, the company is now taking a more health-conscious stance, she told Per La Mente, creating food that doesn’t include any additives or gelling agents.
But 3D food printing isn’t just for home cooks and astronauts. The trend has found its way into high-end restaurants around the globe, allowing people all over the world to get a taste of the future of fine dining. The creative minds behind this movement are not just futurists; they want to create dining experiences that will encourage conversation, shift public opinion, increase connection, and enhance people’s lives. Here are a few of those experiences.
A 3D-printed Valentine's Day heart dessert
Innovative Plating at Miramar
Honeycomb by Paco Perez of Miramar
Miramer, in Llançà, Spain, is run by Michelin-starred Spanish chef Paco Perez and his wife, Montse Serra. Perez has said that 3D food printing allows him to achieve intricate plating concepts that are “too complicated to produce by hand.” Perez’s food is based on tradition and respect for local produce, with an innovative streak. He uses a 3D food printer for such things as producing a flower-like design out of seafood puree.
Transformative Dining at La Boscana
A dessert at La Boscana; photo by Robert Cabrera
La Boscana is a classy gourmet eatery in Spain sporting beautiful décor in a lush green environment. Chef Mateo Blanch believes that 3D printing can transform the dining experience, telling the International Business Times UK, “I like to use [a 3D food printer] in front of customers so that they can participate and see how I am making their food, and I’ve had really good feedback.”
Enthusiasm for Tech at La Enoteca
3-D-printed duck footprints by Food Ink
In the heart of Barcelona, La Enoteca is a sleek, fancy restaurant also run by Paco Perez. Chef Perez displays great enthusiasm not just for fine dining, but also for technology. “Creativity is shaped by what technology can do,“ he told BBC. Perez is constantly in search of new culinary experiences, and the designs he came up with for some of his dishes at La Enoteca would have been very difficult to make by hand. A 3D printer proved to be the perfect solution, allowing him to design beautiful, art-like culinary creations. His work has been described as “traditional cuisine interpreted from a modern and elegant prism using the latest culinary techniques.”
Food Ink’s Immersive Gastronomic Experience
Nautilus dish by Food Ink
Food Ink is the world’s first 3D-printed pop-up restaurant. Everything is, as they say, from “pixels to printer to plate.” The Food Ink gastronomic pop-up experience takes place in an immersive futuristic space filled with wall-to-wall visuals and AI-composed music. Everything is completely produced by 3D printing, including furniture made by Arthur Mamou-Mani and utensils custom-designed by Iwona Lisecka. The organization describes their dinner series — which has popped up in Barcelona, London, the Netherlands, and more — as a place “where fine cuisine meets art, philosophy and tomorrow’s technologies.” Food Ink brings together inventors, technologists, chefs, designers, artists, engineers, and futurists to investigate all sorts of emerging technologies to help shape their interactive experiences. The company’s goal is to use the language of food as a fun and accessible way to teach diners about the possibilities of future tech innovations, foster idea sharing, and facilitate public conversation about how emerging technologies can change the way we create, eat, share, and live.
Egg on carpaccio by Charles Tejedor
The chefs, restaurants, and creative pioneers championing the 3D-printed food trend are making great strides toward changing the dining experience completely. Does 3D food printing make dining more luxurious? Lynette thinks so, saying, “It definitely can. Both to the eyes and the taste buds.” It also broadens the idea of who should be in the kitchen. “What’s really cool about it is you have to have a different skill set to run them,” says Ben, “someone who can do coding and design. What kind of graphic designer works at a restaurant right now? But in the future, [they] would.”
Ultimately, 3D-printed food offers new challenges and chances for innovation across the restaurant industry. “I think it will allow [chefs] to get really creative,” Ben said. “We will probably [soon] see new restaurants that offer [only] 3D-printed food.”
For more on the fantastic future of dining experiences, head here.
For dispatches from the restaurant of tomorrow, click here.
For a glimpse of the food tech of the future, go here.
For a taste of what we’ll be drinking in 50 years, try here.