Popular food delivery services like Blue Apron, The Purple Carrot, and Green Chef, all of which simplify home cooks' everyday prep, are about to face some unlikely competition: robots.
Robotic cooking devices started to pop up over the last few years. And at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, an annual event where the newest innovations from entrepreneurs and major tech companies alike are on display, the programmed chefs were out in full force.
All the devices in this still-slim market make roughly the same appealing promise: healthier food that is created quickly and easily at home, usually through the touch of an app.
Take the MK1 prototype from Moley Robotics. Similar in appearance to the kinds of robots you see in sci-fi movies, MK1's robotic arms prep, cook ,and prepare recipes from a pre-programmed library, including ones that pro chefs such as Master Chef Tim Anderson have created. Then there's OneCook, which operates like a next-level meal delivery service. Pick a recipe, order it, and place the packaged ingredients into the top of the machine. OneCook will then whip up your paella, green curry, tomato pasta, and more.
Even though these devices might seem like saviors for the busy home cook, they still raise plenty of issues. Research has shown that home cooks are healthier than those who eat out on a more regular basis. But where do robotic chefs factor into the equation? And if you're not the one who is actually cooking the food, does it still count as home cooking?
"For a lot of people, cooking is a therapeutic, creative process and is an opportunity to bond with friends and others," says Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N. "Automating that process is taking away something they enjoy."
Plus, as anyone who has conquered a seemingly impossible recipe knows, there's an element of pride at play, especially if you try swapping in healthy ingredients for others (think yogurt instead of sour cream). "You take ownership of what you make," says Gorin. But hey, not everyone's a Master Chef.
The robot takeover isn't happening just yet. Gourmia is the only device that's available now and OneCook isn't set to launch until later this year. Moley's Robotic Kitchen is tentatively planned for a 2018 release date and Cooki is still unscheduled.
While you shouldn't abandon your own healthy cooking efforts, coming home to a personal chef after an exhausting sweat sesh doesn't sound half bad, right?