All Your Burning Questions About SF’s New Burger Robot, Answered
Burgers already hold enough real estate in our salivating brains, so a development that combines beef patties with artificial intelligence (Black Mirror, you getting this?) has unsurprisingly provoked some serious discussion here at InsideHook HQ.
Is this ethical? Is this sanitary? Will the robot serve us a spit burger if we come across as churlish at the register? Etc.
Below: the five questions burning a hole in our collective mind, accompanied by all the info you need to know. Hope ya like your buns toasted.
When you say “burger bot,” I’m picturing something like Rosie Jetson with grilling tongs. Is this another example of humans ushering in their own destruction via artificial intelligence, or more of an automated grill?
While humans do seem inexplicably determined to build an automated proletariat, that’s not what’s going on here. Creator (the name of the restaurant opening this week in San Francisco — not the machine, which doesn’t have a name) is the brainchild of CEO Alex Vardakostas, a team of engineers and roboticists from Apple, NASA, Tesla and more than a few well-known chefs. The machine isn’t an apron’d cyborg; it’s more similar to a highly-trained factory conveyor belt, a 14-foot transparent case that uses 350 sensors and 20 computers to cook cheeseburgers at a rate of about 130 an hour.
These burgers are $6. That’s average pricing on a big city burger these days. Can we trust it?
The restaurant officially opens June 27th, and reviews have thus far been surprisingly positive. There’s context to that six-buck price tag. Creator’s machine runs when it needs to, cooks the exact amount of food it needs to, and is noticeably compact, without a need for a massive kitchen. Translation: the restaurant can spend more on food, and its commitment costs there hover closer to 50%. The industry standard is 30%. When’s the last time you read a description that included “smoked oyster aioli” and “shiitake mushroom sauce” for a $6 burger … in SF, no less? (Oh yeah, and fries are only $2.50.)
burger (2 images)
Still, Anthony Bourdain must be rolling in his grave …
Creator would probably induce the ire of the late, great crank, as it would countless other culinary traditionalists. But love of old-school kitchen antics aside, flipping burgers isn’t the healthiest (or most productive) way for a line cook to spend his or her time. Creator’s robot allows its cooks to spend time elsewhere — making sauces, fries, side salads — and ensures sure each burger is cooked the exact way it was ordered, in an enclosed electric griddle that cleans itself regularly. Besides, legitimate cooks have attached their name and efforts to the project. The team at Creator is led by David Bordow (who’s cooked at Chez Panisse) and is involved in every ingredient and every step of the process, from selecting aged cheddars to determining the ideal fat ratio in the burger meat blend.
Hmm. Ok. Is there a standout burger on the menu?
We’re most excited about “The Smoky.” Barbeque sauce, charred onion jam, ballpark mustard, alderwood smoked salt, chipotle sea salt, smoked cheddar, double pickles, onion tomato. There’s a few other great options, one guest-designed by Top Chef contestant Tu David Phu. And of course, you can walk in and order it as you like from your iPhone. (The plan is to have a personalized Creator app up and running down the line.) Be prepared for the Creator machine to toast your buns nice and good. Seems to be its creative flourish, so to speak.
burger 2 (2 images)
Will this ruin the very concept of dining forever?
Take it easy, friend. It took eight years for this project to get off the ground. Opening a restaurant is already considered one of the most foolhardy financial undertakings; doing so with an assembly-line robot that boasts a discerning palate is a whole other ballgame. If Creator is a success, Silicon Valley bigwigs will get investing FOMO and more projects will follow. But for now, let’s see how this one fares, visit the space if interested (which is airy and well-appointed, by the way) and, at least one time, send a burger back with complaints it was undercooked.
No chance that thing knows how to spit in your food.