Restaurants may soon have chefs who know all about you before you walk in the door

You don’t simply walk into Addo; you need a ticket. And that ticket might grant you access to a $15 spaghetti night or $140 12-course meal, depending on the day. What started as two-person dinners in chef Eric Rivera’s home has grown to two locations in Seattle, Washington. At a recent Spoon food tech event, Rivera and Modernist Cuisine’s technical director, Scott Heimendinger, spoke with Spoon’s Michael Wolf about the future of restaurants.

“All the things you see within this company are things people stopped me from doing along the way,” said Rivera of Addo, which is part restaurant, part incubator for up-and-coming chefs.

The space’s pastry case features treats from a mix of bakers.

Rivera wants to get to know who’s coming to dinner before they enter the restaurant.

“I have people who work at home and have just a good cookie recipe,” Rivera said. Addo lets them build up a brand without seeking investors — something Rivera found frustrating when he was trying to open his own restaurant. Right now, his biggest marketing tool is Instagram.

“I don’t have the money to hire a marketing firm or a PR firm or any of those other things,” he said. “I never thought I would have four Instagram accounts.”

For several years, Rivera worked with chef Grant Achatz Culinary as the director of culinary operations at restaurants such as Alinea in Chicago. Tables at Alinea are booked — and paid for — two months in advance, and Rivera uses the same ticket system, Tock, for Addo. But because he’s making Puerto Rican food one night and fajitas the next, Rivera also wants to get to know who’s coming to dinner, before they enter the restaurant.

future of restaurants addo incubator seattle dish 2

For his multi-course tasting menus, he generally sends a questionnaire. It will ask about food preferences, allergies, and dietary restrictions, but also what other restaurants you like and your favorite music.

“Having that information for me is clutch, because when I’m doing a 15-course tasting menu and it’s 20 people, that’s a lot of plates flying around,” he said.

Heimendinger would like to see that kind of consideration going into more restaurants, but in a way that’s “considerate instead of creepy.” He and Rivera were geeking out about food tech at Jet City Gastrophysics, writing about dry ice sorbet, centrifuged infused liquors, and sous vide purees back in 2010.

“Anytime you need to make yourself look 10 percent cooler, robots.

At Modernist Cuisine, Heimendinger finds tech that solves problems, like how to make food photograph well. “Anytime that you need to do something that is highly repeatable, robots. Anytime you need to do something where timing is critical, robots,” he said. “Anytime you need to make yourself look 10 percent cooler, robots.”

Rivera doesn’t see Addo getting a robot anytime soon (except maybe a Roomba), but behind the scenes, he’s using plenty of tech. In the kitchen, he uses a programmable combi-steam oven, blenders, rice cookers, pressure cookers, and coffee grinders.

future of restaurants addo incubator seattle prawn

A freeze dryer is on its way. That’s an example of something you’re not likely to use at home, though because of “preppers,” the price of machines is coming down. It’s an expensive technique, but Rivera is constantly trying to find ways to pack more flavor into every bite. For apple pie, he’ll freeze dry the apples, pulverize them, and sprinkle in the powder. “It’s much more concentrated,” he said.

In the past, he’s used a Genevac Rocket evaporator to make truffle juice. Typically used in laboratory settings to remove solvents from samples, Rivera made an uber-concentrated liquid that he equated to macing yourself with truffles.

Despite a kitchen chock full of gadgets, Addo also shows what ambitious amateurs can accomplish at home. And with or without inflated, freeze-dried gummy bears, there’s really only one thing Rivera wants out of his tools: “All I’m looking for is efficiency now.”

Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Computing

An update to Microsoft To-Do will help you keep up with your resolutions

If you're looking to stay productive in 2019, you might want to check out the freshly updated Microsoft To-Do app, now with additional integration with the Windows 10 Start Menu and more.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
Home Theater

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is the epic sound revolution you didn’t know you needed

After Sony’s utterly bizarre press conference, I almost missed what was perhaps the most impactful sonic experience at the show. Luckily, I went back to Sony’s booth on the last day of the show, only to have my mind blown.
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.
Smart Home

The best multicookers of 2019 for everything from sauteing to slow cooking

Find the best multicookers for your cooking ambitions. Whether you are just getting started in the kitchen or you've been cooking for years and want a device to make it easier, these are the best smart pots for you to choose from.
Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Smart Home

This Silicon Valley studio rents for $1,500 per month — to 2 cats

A man in San Jose, California, rents a studio apartment for $1,500 per month for a very important reason: So his daughter's two cats have a place to call their own. It may be the swankiest cat pad on the West Coast.
Deals

Amazon drops prices on Roomba robot vacuums by up to $150

Amazon is offering discounts on iRobot Roombas and other robot vacuums to help you get a leg-up on those chores. We've rounded up the best deals available now and put them all in one place.
Smart Home

Speed up cooking with one of the best pressure cookers on the market

Not all pressure cookers are created equally. You have to choose between stovetop cookers, multicookers, canners, and even microwave cookers. Our pressure cooking buyer's guide includes our picks for the best in each category.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Smart Home

This just in: Alexa can now deliver the news like a professional newscaster

The Amazon Alexa team has given Alexa a newscaster voice that improves the way she delivers the news and reads Wikipedia articles, making the smart assistant easier to understand.
Product Review

Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the simplest entry into a smarter doorway

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 may lack the style and sophistication of premium door-dingers, but few can match its simplicity and versatility. The device, available in both wired and wireless configurations, is easy to set up and adds instant…
Smart Home

Ring security camera catches man licking the doorbell for hours

A family in Salinas, California had their Ring camera capture something pretty unexpected: a man licking the doorbell outside of their home for more than three hours. The incident took place around 5:00 a.m.