We travel to the world’s largest kitchen trade fair, Eurocucina in Milan with Miele, to discover exactly how kitchens are becoming tech-savvy, forward-thinkers of tomorrow. By Sophie Voelzing
I n a world where each and every one of us relies on smart technology in one way or another – whether in the form of a smart phone, tablet, smart watch or a smart, self-driven car – the food sector’s design and tech industry has surprisingly remained, for the most part, in the dark ages. Until now.
I know what some of you may be thinking – “why should the way we cook change?” – and, I completely second that. There’s nothing better than being in control in the kitchen, cooking up a wholesome meal the ‘good ole fashioned way’. But I can assure you, these innovative, smart developments are nothing less than exciting (and rather mind-blowing!).
So, what exactly is ‘the invisible kitchen’? It’s the latest kitchen design concept currently being developed and implemented by the highend German manufacturer, Miele. It’s the kitchen of tomorrow, designed comprehensively to optimise the cooking and dining experience at home, for both professional and beginner cooks.
It’s labelled ‘invisible’ because the technology behind it allows the kitchen to assist its user in many ways – kind of like a personal sous chef – while remaining out of sight. With its hidden tools and built-in knowledge, the invisible kitchen aids waste minimisation and energy saving, not to mention culinary expertise and grocery management. All of this while allowing you to retain that feeling of intimacy and transparency we all love when cooking.
Features of the kitchen enable dinners to be made at the click of a button with consistent results. If you fancy something healthy – tell the kitchen, and it’ll lend you a recipe using ingredients stocked and available in your pantry or fridge. Or if you’re running low on groceries and conclude you can’t possibility make a meal out of what’s in stock – run it past the kitchen, and it’ll conjure something up.
The smart technology is powered by super computers embedded within the sleekly designed kitchen, to provide reliability and sustainability.
Another feature is the ability to monitor expiration dates on your produce, encouraging you with recipes to use up certain ingredients before they’re ready for the bin. It’ll also be your personal shopper – on hand to inform when the flour is getting low, and the option to order some more via the built-in online ordering system.
From engaging with you with self-initiative, to encouraging you to try new things and learn other cooking techniques and skills, the kitchen is always on hand to offer advice. It’ll offer an on-surface guide with measurements of where to cut your chilli, depending on the spice level you like. If you’re hosting a dinner party, it’ll set the ambiance lighting you require; intimate, romantic, up-beat – you name it. Each paired with relevant music, of course. All in all, making the cooking experience interactive, intuitive and dynamic.
The kitchen will take into consideration the users cooking ability, and then guide accordingly – or intervene when things are going wrong so disasters are averted, it’ll even open the oven door for you when it detects you’re approaching with a tray.
Dr Axel Kniehl, executive director with the Miele Group, marketing and sales, says: “The invisible kitchen brings a new sense of creativity to the game. Cooking once again becomes exciting and is fun”.
But is all of this technology what the consumer wants? I question Miele’s head design director, Andreas Enslin. “They do”, he responds as he goes on to explain how Miele’s extensive market research, which predicts trends years down the line, leads them to conclude that even the most hands-on cook moving forward will want this type of helpful technology in their kitchen. He notes that this is based on global research from all types of market variants.
One point that Andreas made particularly stood out with me. This being that Miele’s research also finds that consumers today are now trusting less and less in the food industry and are again wanting more control over what they eat. “The consumer wants transparency and reliability led by health-driven technology, and this is what we will offer in the future”, he adds.
If you’re trying to be more health-conscious, with a click of a button the kitchen will alter Gourmet lifestyle Kitchen design recipes to be healthier. It’ll make tips throughout the cooking process, while continuously auditing what’s in your fridge to ensure you’re getting the healthy meal you require, while using up leftovers and soon-tobe out of date ingredients.
In summary, Andreas says: “When it comes to the crunch – for example when milk threatens to boil over, an empty pan overheats on the hob or ingredients are incorrectly measured – the invisible kitchen swoops in to prevent a misadventure. In other words, it’s a faithful and virtual assistant shadowing its owner through the entire food preparation process.”
And if you’re worrying that the kitchen is capable of taking too much control in your home – as was I – don’t be. Andreas assures that “the system is tantamount to being a cooking adviser. It provides me with the assistance I need when I am unsure of myself before things start to go wrong.”
On the market now
While talk of the invisible kitchen is extremely exiting, it’s still going through production, so I also took a little look at Miele’s other latest developments – all available on the market now.
From a design point of view, something trending is ‘handle-free’. Miele’s new ArtLine series features all built-in appliances that allow you to design your kitchen completely without handles – talk about cleaning heaven!
I also noticed a lot of emphasis being placed on extraction fans/kitchen hoods. They’re becoming much-less of an eye sore, and more of a kitchen center piece – with the latest product, entitled the ‘Pearl’, offering dimmable atmospheric lighting with embedded energy efficiency (it actually reminded me of something futurist out of the Apple shop – super sleek!).
Two features I favoured the most where the two that revolved around cooking directly. The new TempControl induction hob units that take all of the hassle (and oil spat mess) out of frying. You’ll basically burn food no more with this appliance, as the temperature of the hob is maintained at all times by sensors. It’s easy to forget that when we cook, the temperature of our pans continue to rise during cooking, even if the heat output is constant, which in turn burns our food. With the TempControl hob, the sensors detect the pan’s temperature, and power is regulated accordingly.
And, last but not least the combined vacuum-sealing drawer and steam oven, which allows home cooks to sous vide like a pro. Being able to marinate, seal and cook fish and meat the sous vide way (when food is vacuumpacked in plastic bags and cooked at low, maintained temperature for a long period of time), makes high-standard cooking accessible to everyone at home – and for me, I feel makes the experience of cooking at home, that little bit more special.
For more information about Miele’s products, visit: www.miele.ae.