On June 27, the world’s first robot-crafted burger will roll off a conveyor belt in San Francisco and into the hands of the public.
You could call it the freshest burger on Earth.
The product, from Bay Area-based Creator, a culinary robotics company, is assembled and cooked in a machine that contains 20 computers, 350 sensors, and 50 actuator mechanisms. It does everything from slicing and toasting the brioche bun to adding toppings (to order) and seasoning and cooking the patties, all in five minutes. The meat is ground to order—why it’s touted as so fresh—and sourced from premium ingredients. It emerges from the machine piled with tomatoes and lettuce, sprinkled with seasonings, and drizzled with sauces, at which point it’s transferred by human hands to the customer. The price: $6.
Formerly known as Momentum Machines, Creator was founded by entrepreneur Alex Vardakostas in 2012. The 33-year-old has assembled an Avengers-like superteam of engineers, designers, and roboticists from Apple, Tesla, NASA, and Walt Disney Imagineering R&D. The team also includes alumni from elite restaurants such as Chez Panisse, Momofuku, and SingleThread.
Vardakostas’s pitch is simple: Machines can cook burgers over a hot griddle and slice tomatoes more efficiently than a human can and don’t have the health hazard of showing up to work the grill with a cold. And then there’s the social media gold mine that a Willy Wonka-esque food machine presents. The 14-foot-long contraption, which the team refers to as a “culinary instrument” rather than robot, features glass chutes that transport buns, silos that dispense sauces, and paddles that gently push the evolving burger along.
“June 27 is a big day,” says Vardakostas. “When I started this process eight years ago, there wasn’t the inevitability that this would happen with food. Now not only is it inevitable, but it also produces a much higher quality product.”
I went to the Creator storefront, in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, to sample the four burgers that will be on offer when the place opens and decide whether Creator burgers deserve to be as ubiquitous as driverless cars.