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May 9, 2022

The culinary world is always full of innovation. Some more welcome than others.

Two news items caught the blog's attention this week. The first is that scientists at Cambridge University have developed a robot that can taste food as it 'chews' it.

While Frontiers in Robotics and AI is unlikely to ever rival, say, Vogue in the best sellers list, their article Mastication-Enhanced Taste-Based Classification of Multi-Ingredient Dishes for Robotic Cooking has caused waves.

Our perceptions of flavour change as we chew something. The texture of the food changes and our saliva contains enzymes which also alter the way we experience the food.

The Cambridge scientists have come up with a robot that can replicate this process and report back on how the food tastes. If a robot can taste food then it can adjust the seasoning.

Robot chefs on the assembly line

The importance of this is that it brings the idea of intelligent robot chefs one step closer.

If you are a restaurant owner then the idea of an intelligent chef that is always available, doesn't drink and never answers back is probably an attractive one.

If you are an actual human chef then the idea of readily available robotic rivals that work for less than the minimum wage will be less welcome.

The other news story that grabbed our attention is that the Australian-based Karen chain of restaurants has set up shop in the UK with a branch in Sheffield and another planned for Manchester.

In hospitality slang, a Karen is a customer who complains about everything, often without just cause, and is always asking to speak to the manager.

At the Karen restaurants the boot is very much on the other foot and the sulky staff are deliberately and creatively rude to the customers.

For example, vegans are booed and requests for, say, extra ketchup are likely to be met with abuse so salty that it would make a sailor squirm. Naturally, it's all very tongue in cheek and customers are expected to give as good as they get.

How long before the Karen concept and the robot hospo staff are integrated? Customers could come in and place an order with their waiting robot who would, of course, simply reply, 'Computer says no'.

New Salt and Chilli Oriental

In completely unrelated news, we will point out that Jimmy Lee - you may know him from his much praised Lychee Oriental restaurant in Glasgow, or indeed his appearances on the BBC’s Great British Menu or Channel 4’s My Kitchen Rules - has opened a third branch of his Hong Kong Street Food brand, Salt and Chill Oriental.

Located on Gateside Street in Hamilton and billed as a 'mash-up of East and West', the new takeaway is said to offer 'a taste of Hong Kong’s frills-free street food'. 

Salt and Chilli Oriental Hamilton is the third Scottish location for the award-winning chef's growing brand, following Salt and Chilli in Glasgow's West End and Salt and Chilli Edinburgh within Bonnie and Wild Marketplace at St James Quarter. Main pic shows sticky zing zing BBQ ribs. Taken from Salt and Chilli Facebook.