Most culinary events are more interested in cooking and tasting food than talking about it. Whether we’re out with Stanley Tucci looking for Italy (and eating some delicious carbs in the process). Or watching Anthony Bourdain sample food from around the world.
The conversation usually has more to do with the food itself rather than with the industry that makes it made. The next thing you eat that is now being passed on to Hulu is a deep dive. Into the industry and how the future of automation and the climate crisis could change our diet.
Chef David Chang, the culinary chief behind the Momofuku restaurant group:
He didn’t believe that machines could recreate the cook’s intuition. He’s not really against the automation, but how can a robot keep up. When it comes to preparing the perfect pizza or an insanely delicious meal? This idea – and the automation of grocery deliveries. It is at the heart of Delivery: The Rise of Machines.
The first instalment in Morgan Neville’s The Next Thing You Eat. With the help of friends such as Anderson. Paak, Chris Yang, and Nyesha Arrington, Chang contemplates the pleasures of convenience and its price. Especially regarding the human impact that stagnant work can have.
Chang is not anti-shipping either; As the founder of a start-up like Maple (remember those cookies, New Yorker?). It’s safe to say that delivering food is almost easy these days. In a really relatively short period of time. We were able to call from several restaurants to have our food delivered to our door.
For a four-course meal with a few swipes of the screen. The exciting thing about it? Most of these delivery companies don’t even make a profit, as do restaurants. Chang explores how these delivery services are trying to create a monopoly. And how food as we know it can change forever.
We met dabbawala, a delivery service in India operating since the 19th century; allows people to send homemade hot meals to their family members at work, and the food is always on time. On the other part of the world, the robot waiters deliver food to Hollywood folks. Eliminating the need for drivers (which are incredibly tender and messy), and systems like Flippy can make the perfect burger every time.
Even if some of these innovations can be of benefit to us:
What happens to entry-level jobs that are often stepping stones for immigrants like Chang’s own father? Automation may be inevitable, but when life gets mixed up, you can’t help but wonder how exactly the people on the other side are being harmed.
Robots can do as many things as we can, but when chefs like Courtney Storer are here, and their hearts are running out of pizza, why would you want a machine that can bake you soulless cakes?
Delivered in small 30-minute instalments, The Next Thing You Eat is an easy-to-digest treat that takes time to educate us and make us steal the taste of the food on screen. The show might actually focus more on Chang than the industry as a whole (and spend far too much time trying to comedic beats), but it works overall and raises questions that most of the series happily ignores to keep us from crying.
(Not that it’s terrible – few things are more relaxing than turning my brain off and watching chefs do it all in a world that is constantly changing and the climate crisis affecting our diets – even if we can’t see it yet.
Chang is ready to ask unpleasant questions:
I was surprised to be doing the first part of a series on automation and how technology has conquered our lives, especially since this topic has received so much attention. About the plight of black workers and what has made gastronomy so magical over the years. What makes some television genuinely endearing.
Your siblings he met might not have all the answers, but they did give them some food for thought. Luckily, the next thing you eat doesn’t fight the hysteria we see in most other places; Chang wasn’t talking about how bad the technology was or the industry was dying. Instead, he sees this as inevitable but wonders how we can adapt to keep some of the great things about the food and restaurants – people and art – intact.
The next thing you eat is eye-level culinary shows and whimsical investigative documentaries that highlight the essential nature of the human side of the industry while also exploring what the future might hold.