5.28.13: Farming Robots / Chris Cosentino


Australia Eyes Drones and Robots to Elevate Its Farming Industry

Last year, Australia exported nearly $40 billion in produce — two percent of its gross domestic product — mainly to Asian countries. Now, in an effort to elevate its farming presence and increase exports as well as profits, the country is looking to new technology; specifically, robots and “unmanned air vehicles” (drones: so hot right now.) Employing such technology means that farmers can work more land, cheaper and more effectively while streamlining processes.
Robots already in testing are fitted with GPS, thermal, and vision sensors allowing them to do things like spread fertilizer and identify ripe fruit by color, and can be programmed to pick and sort the fruit. By some estimates, this will increase Australia’s farming output to 5 percent of its GDP in the next 35 years.
Some farmers support the new tech; others think that the human eye (and hand) is best. And while thinking about robots harvesting your produce may be a bit scary, the technology is necessary thanks to growing demand for better quality, fresher food — I call that a net positive.
More on smart modern farming developments from Modern Farmer on Medium.



Last week, rumors of a rent hike potentially shutting downtown Manhattan staple Lure Fishbar made the rounds online, leaving many Lure-faithful crossing their fingers that the rumors aren’t true. The same fans also took to Twitter, spreading the bad news and voicing support through Tweets tagged with #SaveLureFishbar. Plenty of people got in on the action, from Eater founder @Lock to PR maven @Brooke Hammerling. The outpouring of love (and, presumably her favorite menu items) even inspired writer/content-smarty @Caro to create the Save Lure Fishbar Tumblr, sharing fond memories of the restaurant in an effort to show support. Lure’s fate remains to be seen, but hopefully thanks to a digital outpouring of love and support, one of Soho’s favorite restaurants may be able to carry on.



Chris Cosentino’s Got Guts

San Franciscans know chef Chris Cosentino for his now-classic Incanto, the Noe Valley restaurant specializing in offal dishes, and Boccalone, arguably the best place in the city for “salty pig parts.” Non-SFers will recognize him from successes in the national spotlight winning Top Chef Masters. Now, we may know him for an inspired line of meat-themed wearables, from meat socks to butcher briefs (ha!!) I didn’t know it, but apparently he’s already had reasonable success with these Gluttony Pants — pants with a few extra buttons allowing for a little bit of extra room, post-meal. As for the socks and underwear, SF-based apparel manufacturer BetaBrand won’t make them unless they’re voted in, so vote YES!
Adding to the awesome @offalchris news flurry, today he announced that a publisher finally had the guts (ha! this guy!) to publish his cookbook. Congratulations!



Hmm… EatClub Launches in San Francisco

After a few successful years on the peninsula, EatClub launched in San Francisco today, changing the traditional concept of a food truck and adding a digital component. Major SF restaurants signed on to have their dishes featured (or, um, “curated” by EatClub’s food curator), and diners can order their favorites for pickup via mobile app. It’s currently invite-only, but you can score an invite if you shamelessly market tweet or post for an invite code.
This business model has a broader implication: it flies in the face of the restaurant-as-experience concept that so many smart chefs strive to achieve. I love Nopalito’s carnitas as much as anyone, but eating it at my desk rather than at the counter of the Broderick Street restaurant with a side of those amazing, free, dried, spiced chickpeas isn’t the same experience. At all.


The Proliferation of Online Cooking Classes

A new online cooking education site launched last week — which makes this the third or so consecutive week I’ve read a similar headline. (Even Michael Mina is doing it.) I’m generally a fan of online education, but [non-culinary-trained opinion here] there’s a difference between auditing an MIT course and learning how to properly cook sous vide or mince garlic into perfect tiny pieces. Cooking isn’t a spectator sport, and while watching a video will get you part of the way, the only way to truly perfect a skill is to practice it.
Then there’s the question of hardware: a dedicated kitchen iPad sure is nice, but a luxury most home cooks don’t have, and it’s hard to get your hands dirty in the kitchen while keeping your laptop’s keyboard from becoming a mess of garlic, parsley, lemon juice and who-knows-what-else bits.
Is this better than learning from a book? Probably so, at least in terms of learning from a pro’s actions. But is it worth shelling out for a “class” that offers no real-time feedback or hands-on criticism? I’m genuinely curious — who pays for that?


Deborah Madison: “Stop Calling Them Veggies”

“Veggies” is a stupid word and we should stop using it and give vegetables the respect they deserve, saysDeborah Madison. I agree! Who knows from whence it came, but media popularity of celeb chefs (like Rachael Ray and her “sammies”) surely had a hand in its proliferation. Madison’s norCal sensibilities shine through in this piece: “Veggie turns vegetables into something kind of sweet but dumb, and in turn, one who eats a lot of vegetables might be construed as something of a lightweight, but one who can somehow excused.”


  • San Francisco restaurant trend: getting a start on Kickstarter — SF Business Times
  • A solid roundup of who’s who in the food + technology space — FoodTech Connect
  • What a power outage costs a restaurant — Eater
  • Thomas Keller’s moving Memorial Day message — @Chef_Keller