From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Dan Mills has always loved food and science. Fascinated by cooking’s conversion from sketch and technological innovation, he has been spending his last years designing and realizing a space where all “food hackers” can learn, share, and try new things. Tinker Kitchen is a fully loaded kitchen makerspace located in San Francisco which has already been part of Maker Faire Bay Area as a concept. Its mission is to enable learning-by-doing education in the food space, giving food makers a hub to poke around.
Q. What’s Tinker Kitchen and how did you get there?
I’ve always loved food. I’m fascinated by food science as well as old and new food related hardware. To me, cooking is relaxing as well as stimulating. I get a kick out of making a new discovery or successfully making something tasty. I have a tech background, so I call it “food hacking.” It is a cool concept but it’s hard to be a food hacker. I collect everything from sous vide machines to pasta extruders to coffee roasters, but many pieces of equipment are bulky, expensive, or used very infrequently. So it is inconvenient for me to buy them.
For example, I’d love to have a combi-oven, and be able to independently control humidity, temperature, and convection of dishes. I could play around steamed dumplings, bread, pastrami, and much more, all using one autonomous tool. But guess what? A combi-oven costs thousands of dollars and it is enormous, as it is designed for commercial kitchens.
That’s why I decided to build Tinker Kitchen.
Tinker Kitchen is a fully loaded kitchen makerspace with specialized equipment and ingredients. From my beloved combi-oven, along with stoves, deep fryers, bean-to-bar chocolate makers, coffee roasters, and pasta makers. All will be there, ready to be used and shared by food hackers who, like me, are looking for a hub where they can prototype and test food related concepts.
Q. Which are the key elements that make Tinker Kitchen a “place to be” for makers?
Like most makerspaces, it will be an open space to drop by anytime, and work or hangout with other hackers. It will also be a place to organize feasts, parties, and social events.
We all know that when you go through a bunch of ingredients on the counter and you turn fires up, people start to show up. Furthermore, in addition to our home kitchens (or at least mine!), Tinker Kitchen will have staff on-site to help with planning, receiving food for members, and cleaning-up.
Q. Watching how the food and technology intersection is remarkably growing, where do you and Tinker Kitchen position yourselves?
We’ll be deeply “techie” without loosing touch with real food, of course. We’ll have lab equipment like rotary evaporator (to distill flavor essences), a centrifuge (to clarify liquids), as well as specialty ingredients like liquid nitrogen and modernist enzymes that can “glue” meat together or “supreme” (peel) oranges.
Q. How do you evaluate the social aspect of what you are creating?
Creating community is one of the leading driver of Tinker Kitchen. Cooking alone might be boring or daunting. Learning alone is reductive and not so challenging. Making without other ideas to build on, is downsizing the creativity outcomes. Tinker Kitchen aims to be that hub where learning, cooking, and making are shared practices.
Back in my college days, I was lucky enough to take a biology course led by a sculptor and a biology professor, who teamed up to explain real-world biology concepts by building physical models. Makerspaces weren’t really a thing back then, but these two people turned the whole basement into a big one. It was mind-blowing. I discovered that this learning style is not only extremely fun, but also immensely effective. I can still remember the things I learned back then, even though it’s been two decades!