Machine Cuisine

White Castle is trying out a robotic line cook named Flippy:

“The robot, made by Miso Robotics, has already been frying food and cooking burgers in venues including Dodger Stadium. White Castle will be the first fast-food chain to pilot a robot cook in the kitchen.

“Flippy, which can learn and improve its performance through AI, will start out on the fry station before potentially expanding its purview to the grill.”

Dilemma of Dining Out

Jen Rose Smith ponders whether it’s ethical to eat at reopened restaurants:

“Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are yearning for the experience of eating in restaurants once again. Some have determined it’s worth it. But like so many decisions now, dining out has impacts that go well beyond individual risk-tolerance, because it also endangers servers and other staff.”

Tats and Wraps

The Memphis Flyer profiles Ian and Tay Brown, a couple who opened a health food kitchen inside a tattoo parlor:

“‘That’s something I came up with,’ says [Ian]. ‘Because in all the years I’ve been tattooing, tattoo artists probably eat just very, very bad. I wanted to provide us with something to keep the blood flowing, the mind sharp—low-calorie super foods that keep us going.'”

Crying Fowl

Fedele Bauccio takes exception to the recent foie gras ruling in California:

“Foie gras is an expensive delicacy that few people have ever even tried. I am pretty sure the epicureans celebrating the return of force-fed goose and duck liver are the same ones asking if their eggs are pasture-raised and their beef grass-finished…. Others argue that foie gras is such a tiny industry, we shouldn’t make a big deal out of it and concentrate instead on the nation’s 44 million hogs, 12.6 billion cattle, and 3.5 billion broiler chickens.

“We can — and should — do both. The bottom line is that foie gras comes from abused animals. Pretending otherwise is just a fantasy.”

Hooked on Tuna

Even though bluefin tuna is at risk of extinction, some chefs can’t seem to give it up, reports Eliza Barclay:

“There’s one clear reason why it’s still on menus: ‘Bluefin tuna belly is one of the most delicious things in the world,’ says Bruce Mattel, associate dean of food production at the Culinary Institute of America. But, he says, the decision to serve bluefin is ‘largely driven by demographics and customer base’ — in other words, chefs beholden to people spending hundreds of dollars on a meal.”

Duck, Duck, Goose

A judge has overturned California’s foie gras ban, reports the Los Angeles Times. While animal rights groups vowed to appeal the ruling, chefs were celebrating:

“‘It feels a little like December of 1933,’ tweeted Providence chef Michael Cimarusti, referring to the end of Prohibition.”

Unhappy Meal

McDonald’s PR nightmare continues, reports Grub Street:

“After yesterday’s news that a new French fry shortage had crippled Venezuela, forcing stores to deep-fry arepas, and reports from the day before that someone discovered a chunk of vinyl embedded in a McNugget, here’s today’s reminder of how much trouble the Golden Arches is having keeping it together: The Japanese arm of the company issued an apology yet again, this time after an investigation of a ‘foreign object’ found in a customer’s fries last month definitively revealed that the item in question was a human tooth.”

“It’s Lonely at the Top”

As Rich Duprey reports, when compared with the work environments at other fast food restaurants, In-N-Out Burger is an outlier:

“Fast-food restaurants are not generally viewed as among the best places to work. They’re chaotic, stressful, and as recent labor protests would suggest, they don’t pay top-dollar wages.

“So what’s In-N-Out Burger doing on Glassdoor’s 2015 list of 50 Best Places to Work? For the second time in seven years, this relatively small, regional chain centered in and around California has ranked among the top 10 U.S. employers with more than 1,000 employees.

“That means the burger joint was viewed as a better place to work than Facebook, Apple, Nike, and perennial favorite Costco.”

Pot, Meet Kettle

Chefs are beginning to devise dishes using a novel ingredient: cannabis.

“In Colorado, which has issued more than 160 edible marijuana licenses, skilled line cooks are leaving respected restaurants to take more lucrative jobs infusing cannabis into food and drinks. In Washington, one of four states that allow recreational marijuana sales, a large cannabis bakery dedicated to affluent customers with good palates will soon open in Seattle.

“Major New York publishing houses and noted cookbook authors are pondering marijuana projects, and chefs on both coasts and in food-forward countries like Denmark have been staging underground meals with modern twists like compressed watermelon, smoked cheese and marijuana-oil vinaigrette.”

Made in America

American Chinese food has arrived in China, reports Daniela Galarza:

“A year and a half ago, Fung Lam and Dave Rossi opened a location of Fortune Cookie, a restaurant based on Lam’s family’s restaurant, in Shanghai. Today, Fortune Cookie serves ‘sweet-and-sour pork, General Tso’s chicken, orange chicken, chow mein, crab rangoon,’ and other dishes that the former classmates say cannot otherwise be found in Shanghai today.

“Fung’s family runs Chinese restaurants ‘from Brooklyn to Texas’ so the venture is partly a family affair. As they discovered when they first opened, finding ingredients to cook Americanized Chinese food in China is tricky. They have been importing certain ingredients in order to give dishes that ‘American-ized flavor.’ Heinz ketchup is used in the sweet-and-sour recipes; the fried noodles contain Skippy brand peanut butter.”