The chef robot will not take your job. Not if you don’t let it.

Stafford DeCambra

By Stafford DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC

When I began as a chef in the 1970s, the exciting tech arriving in the kitchen was the vertical mixer and the Buffalo Chopper. They certainly made work easier, but you don’t see them much anymore. That is the nature of new tech. It eventually becomes obsolete, replaced by something more efficient.

Earlier this year I saw a piece of equipment that can steam, microwave and grill in one unit and the resulting meal was flawless. Combitherms are routine in commercial kitchens. In Boston there’s a near-fully automated restaurant, Spyce, dreamed up by MIT students and backed by chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller. Cutting edge and culinary has always been a natural pairing.

Faster and cheaper robots are coming but I believe, with the right mindset, chefs will never be obsolete. We have to keep up. Think of tech as a new trend, one you master and then adapt for your own use. There will always be something “new” in our world, be it a technique, ingredient, or as we are seeing now, artificial intelligence (AI).

Our defense is our knowledge, based on our own life experiences and the art of serving real humans real food. Can a robot make a perfect hollandaise? Maybe. But could a robot improvise a menu when kiwis are delivered instead of kumquats? Can a robot adapt a dish to suit a finicky - but favorite - customer? Can a robot keep a kitchen staff engaged day after day? We are the creative force in the kitchen and robots, for all of their uses, are not renowned for creativity.

Perhaps we won’t need to personally supervise every dish in the not-so-distant future but think of the freedom this can provide you. What will you do with this extra time?

As always, the future is what you make it.

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