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

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Mobile

You can now use the innovative Red Hydrogen One on Google Fi

The Red Hydrogen One was first announced in 2017 and has been delayed a few times since then. Now, the Red Hydrogen One is finally available, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
Computing

USB4 will be the fastest and most uniform USB standard yet

USB4 is on the horizon and alongside a massive boost in speed it's also unifying with the Thunderbolt 3 standard to help finally create a singular wired connection protocol that all devices can enjoy.
Deals

Suck up the savings with these vacuum cleaners on sale for $100 or less

Keeping your floors clean around the home is a constant chore. To help make things a whole lot easier, we've picked out some great vacuum cleaner deals available right now, from full-sized upright models to robot vacs.
Smart Home

Is your coffee maker hiding mold inside? Here's how to clean it

Are you a coffee drinker? If you brew your coffee at home and you don't clean your machine, you could be drinking mold, yeast, and other bacteria. Here's how to clean your coffee maker.
Deals

Walmart drops prices on Google Home Hub and Lenovo smart displays

Walmart slashed the prices of Google Home smart displays for two highly regarded Lenovo models and the original Google Home Hub. We can't think of a better way to improve your smart home setup and these deals can help you save up to $100.
Deals

Amazon lowers Echo Dot cost and slashes price of the Dot and Smart Plug bundle

Amazon just unleashed extraordinary price cuts on third-generation Echo Dot smart speakers. The Alexa device is back in stock following the blowout sales last holiday season. The Echo Dot is the best-selling Alexa smart speaker worldwide.
Smart Home

These best outdoor security cameras will keep porch pirates at bay

Worried about porch pirates stealing your packages, or intruders entering your home? Always be in the know about who or what is on your property by installing one of these outdoor security cameras.
Smart Home

Your Instant Pot can do it all. Research says it has another important function

Researchers at Dakota State University tested a variety of pressure cookers for sterilization and found that Instant Pot provides enough pressure and heat to kill off food-spoiling bacteria.
Smart Home

Need some help? Here's our handy step-by-step guide on how to Airbnb your home

Getting ready to make your home a great rental? Here's how to Airbnb your home with the right amenities, insurance, supplies, and everthing else that you need. Use this guide to get started without making beginner mistakes!
Deals

Dyson sale shatters prices on vacuums just in time for spring cleaning

Steep price cuts on Dyson vacuum cleaners for the spring cleaning season help you save money on the tools you need to do the job. We've found the best discounts on Dyson vacuums from Amazon and Walmart and put them all in one place.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Echo devices that play Alexa’s sweetest-sounding music

Amazon slashed prices on Alexa-controlled Echo devices with the best music sound quality. All Alexa smart speakers stream music, but some sound better than others. Save on Echo Plus and the Echo Sub bundled with Echo and Echo Plus speakers.
Product Review

Simple and small, the Google Home Hub is your low-key smart screen

What’s small, simple, cute, and lacks a camera? The Google Home Hub is the latest smart display to hit the market. Powered by Google Assistant, there’s a lot to like about this device.