The robots are coming — to cook you a healthy grain bowl

April 25, 2018

In a small alley in downtown Boston, the Spyce Food Co. is preparing the lunch of the future.

Instead of open tins of food along a counter, vegetables, produce, and grains are pre-loaded into a huge machine that dispenses measured amounts of each ingredient into a cylindrical wok, which rotates slowly alongside an electric burner before dumping the cooked meal into a serving bowl.

The food is ready in just a few minutes, and the only time a Spyce employee touches it is to add garnishes and hand the dish off the customer.

This is a 21st century take on the Automat, where robotics remove humans from much of the meal-making, and in the process, dodge the food industry’s constant struggles to find and keep good staff.​

“I think this is going to take over the world,” said a mesmerized Shannon Magpiong, who works across the street and ordered a “Latin Bowl” featuring rice, beans, kale, and avocado lime crema during a test lunch at Spyce. She left a comment card that began, “OMG amazing.”​

Spyce Food Co. is the creation of four fresh graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who one day back in school got to talking about why nutritious, fresh meals cost so much more than fast food. Being engineering students, their thoughts inevitably veered toward a mechanical solution, a machine that could produce good meals at low cost.

The result is a restaurant where humans are largely in support roles.

Workers prep the food as at other restaurants, but instead load it in the hoppers that automatically feed the cooking woks. At the other end of the process, pantry chefs or “garde mangers,” will add toppings, some of which — such as salmon or pomegranate seeds — cost extra.

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