CIA Explores Future of Edible 3D Prints

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No, not that CIA. I’m talking about the Culinary Institute of America (remember to use your context clues!)

636035174140597216-07xxCIA3DPrinting-2631A lab at the CIA has been equipped by 3D Systems with a retrofitted 3D printer and has already produced a number of complex confections and at least one savory concoction as well. 3D printers aren’t in use in the general student body just yet, but they are exciting a great deal of interest both within the school and in outside food production concerns. Liam MacLeod, the additive manufacturing specialist at CIA, is not only interested in what can be produced using the technology but also the ways in which might benefit the chefs who incorporate it into their kitchens. As MacLeod explains his vision:

“What we’re really trying to do is put it in the hands of chefs – put it in the hands of food-centric minds rather than the architects and engineers that commonly use this type of equipment – just to see what they could do with it…The benefit of the machine comes from being able to run it without being there. You’re able to focus on other tasks and add value to your time.”

While it has been possible to create elaborate and complex sugar sculptures, connecting their creation to digital models allows for greater accuracy and more expansive opportunities for play. Marie-Antoine Carême (1784 – 1833), chef to King George IV among other notables, was widely revered for his ability to produce everything from architectural models to portrait busts using sugar, marzipan, and pastry. And, of course, did all of this without the benefit of a 3D printer but he was exceptional among chefs, had an enormous staff, an even larger budget, and worked himself to death at the age of 48.

636035173950743999-07xxCIA3DPrinting-2556The introduction of 3D printing as another tool in the culinary kit is not necessarily something that will remove the need for talent in construction from kitchen, but rather expand its opportunities and provide the chefs using it with a greater range of possibilities with which to work. While a master could create the same forms, the time necessary to invest is greatly reduced when under the care of a 3D printer, thus leaving the chef with time to devote to other activities.

636035173985844224-07xxCIA3DPrinting-2587The question arises, however: once these confectionery masterpieces move from the labored creation of human hands to something that can be produced by a 3D printer, have they also moved from the realm of high cuisine to be relegated to the corner of pure novelty? This is the same argument that has plagued every technological innovation in art. The introduction of the camera caused people to question whether the production of a portrait using a machine removed it from the realm of high art. This is unquestionably so in the case of school pictures and glamour shots, but a true understanding of the technology reveals that the artist is still required to appropriately use it to create something greater than a mere image.

As continues to be the case with 3D printers, it will take a bit of getting over the initial excitement and the pie in the sky dreams that the technology seems to elicit in all users before it can comfortably settle in to the kitchen, even a kitchen dedicated to experimentation in high cuisine. In this way, it can move from a marketing stunt to a valuable piece of equipment in a high-tech kitchen. Let’s discuss further over in the 3D Printed Edibles forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Poughkeepsie Journal / Images: Patrick Oehler/Poughkeepsie Journal]
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