June 16, 2014

A taste of 3-D printed food

A taste of 3-D printed foodHere in the United States, 3-D printing is all the rave. The advancement in technology allows you to make anything from a simple screw to an entire house with the push of a button. This device works by carving, molding or otherwise shaping an object layer by layer with the help of a 3-D modeling software program. Over in Germany, IT companies are using this 3-D printing technology to do something entirely new that may be of particular interest to Austin culinary arts school students: printing real, edible food.

Printer producer Biozoon is the mastermind behind this technology. To print food, the user injects the device with a food puree (along the lines of a mixture of potatoes, pork, chicken and peas), which comes out the other end as a final product. The printer knows what to make thanks to software that determines the texture and shape. You can even adjust the texture and shape according to what type of puree you put in. For instance, you can insert carrot puree and alter the settings so the end product looks like diced carrots and has the chewing texture of roasted carrots.

This printed food is entirely safe for consumption, but the big question is – how does it taste? Munchies magazine spoke with Biozoon project manager Sandra Forstner about the device and asked her just what the 3-D printer’s products taste like.

“The food tastes like normal food,” Forstner said. “It is made from fresh ingredients, so the taste doesn’t change. One of our goals is not to change the flavor; the texturizing system doesn’t change it.”

Currently, Germany is using 3-D printing technology to feed the elderly at assisted living and retirement communities, which are in dire need of soft foods for those who cannot chew. Instead of feeding them baby food, Biozoon’s Smoothfood printer creates foods in their natural shapes from purees that melt in the mouth.

The 3-D printer has actually been around for some time now, but as they continue to become cheaper and easier to produce, it’s expected that someday every household in the first world will have one much the same way they have microwaves or televisions. That may mean that people can start creating gourmet meals at home and quit going out to restaurants – a negative for Texas culinary arts school seeking a job in the distant future. But it can also lead to new opportunities for advancement in the world of culinary arts.

No doubt, chefs will begin experimenting with the shapes and textures that these printers can produce. There may someday be new, unique purees available for culinary artists, who will surely concoct their own unique flavors, and supermarkets will sell lines of gourmet purees for the everyday consumer and at-home cook. And because these printers will mean cheaper and faster food production with less manpower, it may even mean that restaurants can someday begin offering upscale meals at cheaper prices.