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The first burger built by a robot is ready to hit the Bay Area



On Wednesday, the world's first robotic burger in San Francisco will roll off a conveyor belt and reach the public.

You could call it the freshest burger in the world.

The product of the culinary robotic company Creator from San Francisco is assembled and cooked in a machine containing 20 computers, 350 sensors and 50 actuator mechanisms. It does everything from slicing and toasting the brioche bun to adding toppings (to order) and seasoning and cooking the pies, all in five minutes. The meat is ground to order – why it is so freshly promoted – and made from first-class ingredients. He emerges from the machine, which is filled with tomatoes and salad, sprinkled with spices and drizzled with sauces. At this point, it is handed over to the customer by human hand. The Price: $ 6

Formerly known as Momentum Machines, Creator 2012 was founded by entrepreneur Alex Vardakostas. The 33-year-old has an Avengers-style super team of engineers, designers and roboticists from Apple, Tesla, NASA, and Walt Disney Imagineering R & D. The team also includes elite alumni like Chez Panisse, Momofuku, and SingleThread.

Vardakostas' pitch is simple: Machines can cook burgers over a hot griddle and cut tomatoes more efficiently than a human, and have no health risk of appearing to work the grill with a cold. And then there's the Social Media Gold Mine, which features a Willy Wonka-style food machine. The 14-foot device, which the team calls a "culinary instrument" rather than a robot, has glass slides that carry buns, silos that deliver sauces, and paddles that gently squeeze the developing burger.

When I started this process eight years ago, there was not the inevitability that this would happen with food, "Vardakostas said." Now not only is it inevitable, it also produces a much higher quality product. "

The 2,200-square-foot Creator Storefront at 680 Folsom St. is sparse and clean, with white-tiled walls, a poured concrete floor, and light ash wood accents, it looks more like a salad bowl than a burger place, with only a discreet scent Even the prep stations, which have ready-made side dishes like skin cut fries and seasonal corn salad, are hidden behind large glass-walled refrigerators that showcase the key ingredients, with the glass front and front glass standing instead of a bar counter Inside. Inside are a row of oversized vertical tubes with stacks of tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and so on. [1 9659048] Traces of brioche buns are positioned above the head. "I think this is the most transparent restaurant," says Vardakostas. One part of the burger manufacturing process that customers will not see is the burgers grinding and cooking. "There was a hesitation that meat was ground," he adds.

The machine in action is made for time-lapse video. First, the brioche drives over the slide, pushed by a block of wood (and air pressure). Then he pours down a chute while it is sliced, roasted and placed in a sheet-shaped, custom-made container. He lands under the saucepans on the copper-colored conveyor belt – around eight of them are on offer, including barbecue, onion jam, shiitake mushroom and baseball mustard. Next are the sweet cucumbers, tomatoes and onions – sliced ​​to order, they land in slow motion on the bun. Then chopped salad followed by cheese – mild or smoked cheddar and grated to increase the melting potential. At the bottom of the line are large tubes of spices, including alder-smoked salt, sprinkled on the grated 4 ounce burger before the patty lands on the chilled half of the bun.

The Only Workers Seen Around the Machine Apart from the few employees who replace ingredients, there are "concierges" on the front of the machine to take orders and pay, and a few in the end to burgers to serve.

Creator is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays A limited number of guests can order by August through an online ticket system (ticket sales for August will go live on July 10). Creator will be open to the public in September.

The amount of money that flows into the gourmet burger market is huge. The manufacturer of Impossible Burger, the vegetable product that simulates meat, has raised $ 396 million, according to TechCrunch. Vardakostas will not divide numbers – a 2017 Business Insider Story reported $ 18 million in funding, but it confirms that Google Ventures, Koslow Ventures and Root Ventures are investors.

David Bordow, whose official title is culinary lead and experience designer, has made an attempt to build an extraordinary burger, especially for the relatively low price. To create it, he and the team of consultants Pilot R & D highlight a technique by star chef Heston Blumenthal. Every patty you've ever had was packed from random meat strands by a mill. The creator grinds his meat vertically and keeps the strands in line while the burger is cut into patties. If you bite in, you hit the seams. The resulting bite is tender and juicy (the reason-to-order factor also helps). It's the same principle as cutting steaks instead of steak, which results in a much tougher sip.

Vardakostas comes from a burger background. His family owns Southern California & A's Burgers, and two of his aunts have burger chains. "If you make 400 of the same burger every day, you can not help but think: & # 39; How would I improve this experience?" Like Steve Jobs, Vardakostas created the first prototype in his parents' garage around 2010. [19659050] When he went to Menlo Park in 2012 to optimize the machine, he met Steve Frehn, a mechanical engineer with experience at NASA and Tesla, who came aboard. "People wanted to do something sexier than self-driving cars before 2015. It was more sociable to say that I was unemployed than to say I'm working on a burger robot," recalls Vardakostas. "But now it's an easy sell to get people to work on the idea of ​​improving food for all."

For most restaurants, food costs are around 30 percent; According to estimates, they are at least 40 percent here. Labor costs are lower. There are about 40 people in the team, with about nine employees working during opening hours, Vardakostas estimates – a lower number of employees than in a burger place. There is also the design. Because much of the work is done by the machine, the typical burger production room is free for sitting. "It costs an average of $ 1.5 million to build a McDonald's. The machine is much less than that," says Vardakostas.

The creator plans to spread it to other cities (Vardakostas wants to go to urban areas that are not as prosperous as San Francisco, such as Stockton, where he sees a market for high quality, affordable burgers), as well as venues such as airport terminals, train stations, Stadiums and universities. "The machine gives us the freedom to do this kind of experience, it does not smell like burgers."

During the off-hours, Creator plans to hold classes like robotic lessons on microcontrollers and industrial design that show the mechanics of the machine.

Of the four burgers on Creator's opening menu, the smoky was my favorite – it's the house's barbecue sauce and charred onion jam, with Chipotle's sea salt and melted smoked cheddar. The Signature Creator vs. The World Burger offers, what the company calls Pacific Sauce, Bordows version on Thousand Island, with mole sauce and umeboshi plum. The burger tastes like a very good version of a classic Cali burger except one that blends all the ingredients, such as the sweet cucumber eruption. I was surprised at how meaty the unremarkable-looking pate tasted, burnt and juicy. I would have liked more of this sauce, which is creamy and spicy; The option to do this may or may not be available when Creator opens.

Bordow has also tapped chefs Nick Balla, formerly of Bar Tartine, to create the Daddy Burger (he has a sunflower seed Tahini) and the intriguing Tumami Burger, that has a smoked oyster aioli (much tastier than it sounds) and shiitake sauce. Bordow plans to tap more local culinary talents after the opening to configure burgers.

When his app is launched in a few months, the number of burger options will skyrocket when guests adjust the amount of sauce in milliliters, the amount and the mix of cheese. "Remember, you can add an extra barbecue sauce on the top bun, Habañero salt on the bottom of the patty, which has a greater impact than the top," says Vardakostas. "Here math explodes, I'm thrilled that people see what different amounts of something like seasoning can do to their burgers."

The stream of burgers will be slow at first. The machines – there are currently two – can produce up to 120 per hour, and at the moment it's slower. Later, expect more to come out; early word was that it could produce 400 per hour.

Kate Krader is a Bloomberg writer. E-Mail: [email protected]


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