British Michelin starred chef Heston Blumenthal has for the first time got involved in the foodtech startup world by joining robotics restaurant developer Karakuri as a board advisor.
The move will see Blumenthal advise Karakuri on its plan to deliver hyper-personalised food.
The startup is developing a robotic food preparation system that can produce rapidly produce highly customised meals based on consumers’ dietary and taste preferences.
The involvement of Blumenthal follows the startup receiving £7m investment in a seed funding round led by online grocery giant Ocado earlier this year.
“From when we first came up with the initial concept of Karakuri, Simon and I dreamed that Heston would join us. Heston is the world leader in understanding the intricacies of how science and food work together to create something very special,” said Barney Wragg, CEO and co-founder of Karakuri.
“He is constantly questioning how can we push the boundaries of food and its preparation. We are delighted to have access to this insight as we develop Karauri’s new and smart ways to prepare and deliver fresh meals.”
Heston Blumenthal and robots: The appeal of foodtech
For Blumenthal, the appeal of getting involved with Karakuri’s foodtech offering lies in its robots.
“I’ve always been excited by the capabilities of robots. In recent years, the robotics industry has shifted greatly from being the workhorses of manufacturing into many other areas of our lives,” said Heston Blumenthal, founder of The Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston.
“Karakuri are part of a new vanguard of companies focusing on the use of robots in the food, beverage and hospitality space and I am really looking forward to helping be part of this growth.”
Blumenthal is known for his boundary pushing culinary experiments and the use of science and technology in food preparation, meaning his enthusiasm for the potential of robots in the restaurant space is unlikely to surprise many. However, he is keen to stress that humans still have a powerful role to play in foodtech.
“The collaboration between robots and humans is something I am deeply interested in. Whilst there are so many incredible things robots can do for us, they lack many of the key human qualities that make the hospitality and service sector so special,” he said.
“Through my cooking I have come to understand the power of emotion and how it relates to food, how it is affected by feelings such as nostalgia, empathy and now our microbes. A robot is missing these factors and therefore it can never have as powerful a connection with food as humans.
“Part of the attraction of Karakuri was their willingness to explore these areas so that, as we build ever more sophisticated machines, we don’t lose sight of the beauty of human beings. Let’s use robots to celebrate the things that only humans can do.”