Can The Smart Kitchen Serve Both Non-Cooks And Confident Cooks?
Updated: Mar 4
I had planned to write about how the smart kitchen can turn non-cooks into cooks. Then a comment from Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle grabbed my attention on Twitter.
This is not the first time we've come across this concern about the smart kitchen. Since Lisa McManus is America's Test Kitchen's executive editor of equipment testing and ingredient tasting, and also their resident gadget guru, she's uniquely placed to reflect on this issue. As someone who loves to cook, I understand Lisa's concerns. There's nothing quite like immersing yourself fully in the cooking process, transforming the raw ingredients into something truly delicious. If you love to cook, handing over control to a smart appliance rather than relying on your knowledge and intuition might make it seem like you're removing the joy from the cooking process.
We don't all love to cook though. In fact, 45% of Americans say they hate to cook. The smart kitchen space and wider food tech community have more or less addressed the issues encountered by those who can't, don't or are too busy to cook.
By making the cooking process more convenient, the smart kitchen space is encouraging people to cook more often at home. Don't want to wait too long for dinner after work? Preheat the oven on the way home. Not confident in the kitchen? Try guided recipes and a precision cooking device. One of the 51% of Americans who would prepare dinner more often if they had new ideas? Try a recipe app that can deliver personalised recipe inspiration. Want a home-cooked meal but don't actually want to cook? Pop a one-pan meal into your June Oven and come back when it's done. My point is that it's all about perspective. For those who can't, don't or are too busy to cook, smart kitchen appliances might actually help them rediscover the joy of home-cooked food.
Of course, there's nothing to say that a more experienced cook can't benefit from any of the above, but I completely understand that much of the focus in the smart kitchen and food tech space to date has leaned towards the convenience side of things.
How can the smart kitchen space grab the attention of more experienced cooks without scaring off novice cooks? Well, they could take their cue from Amazon and Food Network who announced a streaming service that will give subscribers access to up to 25 live cooking classes a month plus hundreds of additional on-demand cooking classes and thousands of step-by-step tutorial videos. Services like this do not just help novice cooks learn how to cook. They have the potential to teach confident cooks more complex techniques and recipes to enhance their repertoire. Smart kitchen startup ChefSteps is also entering this space, offering cooking guides and scientific insights that could potentially grab the attention of experienced cooks in search of deeper cooking knowledge. It remains to be seen whether consumers are ready to pay for such content - quality and exclusivity will be crucial. Since the mainstream appliance brands have already jumped on board with offering free recipe content to smart appliance users, there's no reason why this can't be extended to include engaging video content that appeals to confident cooks.
My point here is that while there's definitely a focus on making the kitchen a bit more of a hands-free experience, there's definitely room to balance the needs of the novice cook and the more experienced cook in one neat smart kitchen package. One person's joy is another's misery and creating a smart kitchen experience that solves both issues should definitely be on the cards for those in the smart kitchen space. One point I think we can all agree on though is that it's time to automate or at least simplify kitchen prep and cleaning tasks. That's something that can bring us all joy!