Pride and Prejudice: Bridging the Gap Between Food and Technology

“This condemnation of technology is ingratitude, that’s what it is.”

– Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

There is a very strange phenomenon between food and technology that has swept our mindsets and dictated our attitudes. It’s an idea that food and technology are not related, in fact, some would say, they are adversaries. This socially shared viewpoint is motivated by two things: one, is that most of the associations we have with food technology, are negative and two, the media perpetuates this deep rooted belief. In fact, this recent article identifying the boom of high tech startups in Silicon Valley as the root cause of restaurant closures in the area, is a great example of technology being portrayed as the big bad wolf trying to destroy the food chain.

The truth of the matter is food and technology are much more intertwined than we ever give it credit for.

Should the industry be on high alert?

Well, the truth of the matter is food and technology are much more intertwined than we ever give it credit for. It’s technological advances that are the driving force behind modern farming, allowing the mass production and preservation of food. Technology is what gets food from the farm to the table and is the pivotal reason that we are able to bake, sauté, and fry food. Without technology, modern dining wouldn’t exist as we know it today.

During my studies at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, I had much the same prejudices.  My dismay, was very much linked to the only things I knew about food technology: GMO seeds, industrialized farming, pesticides, hormones, and everything else related to, what I liked to call, “the corruption of food.”

Of course I was naive back then for dismissing technology all together. I didn’t want to recognize that some of the conveniences of food, were a result of technological advancements. I wanted to ignore the fact that all the complexities and issues behind food, such as over farming, unequal distribution, and growing food waste, were being whole heartedly addressed through technology.

When I started working at SimpleOrder, and one of our intentions became focused on reducing waste in restaurants,  a whole new world of food technology opened up to me. I became aware of companies such as Unsung , that are using the sharing economy model to redistribute unused food from restaurants to homeless populations. At Auckland University they are experimenting with using apple pulp, a byproduct of apple juicing, to create alternative flour. Even restaurants are getting on board to utilize technology in order to tackle our food crisis. Momofuku Nishi in New York, is cooking up plant based meats, using very precise methods of molecular gastronomy to generate burgers that almost taste like the real thing. This gives you the satisfaction of eating meat, without the environmental impact.

As we learn more and more about food technology and the innovations this industry is making, we will begin to understand that If we are going to resolve these issues, we can turn to technology to help us. By ignoring technology or dismissing it, we will lose a great resource. By learning about tools that exist and the solutions they offer, chefs, restaurateurs, managers, farmers and producers can make educated choices about what is best for their them and will alternatively make positive impact toward food and the environment.