In March 2014, Nathan Myhrvold, Francisco Migoya, and the team at Modernist Cuisine closed a 50-course meal for renowned chef Ferran Adrià with a unique absinthe service. Each glass was topped with a delicately curved ceramic spoon that held, instead of the traditional sugar cube, an intricate, accurate, and colorful replica of Barcelona’s famous Gaudí chimneys, an homage to Adrià’s native Spain. The chimneys were made entirely of sugar and fabricated for the dinner by a 3D printer, built layer by extraordinarily thin layer of sugar. As the water was poured over the sugar chimney and into the glass of absinthe, the sculpture slowly dissolved and flowed into the glass below. Cook’s Science senior editor Paul Adams, who was lucky enough to be there, noted that while he had “seen 3D-printed garnishes before, this was the first time it really felt like [the 3D printing] was an intrinsic part of the meal.” Adams continued, “Watching the tiny sculpture melt away, and then drinking it, that was kind of amazing.”
3D-printed parts have made their way onto jetliners, and NASA is currently working on a 3D-printed rocket engine. In the realm of biotechnology, 3D printers have been used to make prosthetic limbs for humans and animals. There’s a prototype that 3D prints functional human skin (!) for transplanting onto burn victims’ wounds, potentially eliminating the need for skin grafts. Fashion has even gotten into the game, with designers 3D printing bespoke shoes and fabrics.
As 3D printing has started to make its way into the culinary world and a handful of chefs are experimenting with printing beautiful, edible designs, I had to wonder: Is the technology ready? Should I set aside some of my meager kitchen counter space for a 3D printer? Is 3D printing poised to revolutionize the way we eat?