Can The Smart Kitchen Serve Both Non-Cooks And Confident Cooks?
Back in 2019 when we could gather in crowds and attend events, the comment below from Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle caught our eye.
This was not the first time we had come across this concern about the smart kitchen, nor was it the last. A similar discussion took place at Smart Kitchen Summit 2020.
Since Lisa McManus is America's Test Kitchen's executive editor of equipment testing and ingredient tasting, and also their resident gadget guru, she was and is uniquely placed to reflect on this issue. At Recipe Guru, we love to cook and we 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 and while the pandemic has increased people's confidence in the kitchen, cooking fatigue is a real issue. To date, the smart kitchen space and wider food tech community have been focused on addressing the issues encountered by those who can't, don't or are too busy to cook. They've succeeded too. Food recognition features, for example, mean the appliance can often do the thinking for the home cook in order to produce perfect results with zero hassle. 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 solving cooking issues that many of us are facing right now. Last Zoom meeting of the day running over? Preheat the oven from your desk. Not confident in the kitchen? Guided recipes and a precision cooking device can help novice home cooks who have no choice but to cook at home day after day. One of the 79% of Americans who are searching for recipe content at the same rate or more often than pre-pandemic? Try a recipe app that can deliver personalised recipe inspiration. Want a home-cooked meal but don't actually want to cook? The June Oven can take over much of the work. 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. Since confidence amongst home cooks is high (40% of Americans say their cooking has improved so much during the pandemic that they could now compete on MasterChef), there is a clear appetite for recipe content that helps these confident home cooks up their game further. Bosch is also entering this space with a guided recipe solution that is available via the Amazon Echo Show and connects to Bosch appliances. While they're offering just 25 guided recipes to begin with, the step-by-step nature of their product opens up opportunities to 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 or to pay a premium for appliances that include guided recipe content - quality and exclusivity will be crucial. Since many of 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 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!