Clients can custom-order sweets and chocolates in any shape: from cartoon characters to superheroes.
A small team of rogue chefs, architects-turned-designers, and tech geeks is running the world’s first ‘digital bakery’.
Sugar Lab is unlike a regular bakery in many ways and like a bakery in plenty of ways.
Every project in the East Los Angeles workshop begins with an idea.
Clients can custom-order sweets and chocolates in any shape: from cartoon characters to superheroes. Sugar Lab designers then model them for the chefs at the lab to 3D print and excavate them in a plate full of powder.
‘Sugar Lab’ co-founder Kyle von Hasseln underlines that 3D printing does not mean simple.
“It really takes working with a chef and having a goal, researching what ingredients you want, sourcing them, bringing them in-house, mixing them up, tasting them before they even go into the 3D printer and understanding what you’re working with. And then after the object is 3D printed, there are a million things that a chef can do with that object.”
The digital bakery’s method is just like the traditional way.
The chefs at the lab mix water, sugar and vegetable starch and add water to the dry ingredients to create what’s basically a ‘super-fondant’.
Hasseln’s journey into the world of culinary sugar creations began when he was a student at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. He bought a traditional 3D printer and started tinkering around with it and experimenting with ingredients.
He says the 3D printer he’s using at the lab is the only NSF-certified food 3D printer anywhere in the world. It’s also the only one that operates at scale, with a capacity to print thousands of products overnight and have it ready for the chefs in the morning.
Hasseln believed in the potential of 3D printing across different industries, especially in the food industry.
“There are all these spaces where we accept artistry in food beyond the actual, like the difficulty of the craft. So dessert space is a really good example where the way something looks is so important to us and makes it open up our mind and makes us accepting and approachable,” explained Hasseln.
Jonathan Solomon is the head chef at Sugar Lab and he shares the same passion.
“I really feel like I’m getting to work on the future of food. Future of desserts. Just future tech that’s going to be able to, one day these things are going to be in everyone’s kitchen — not tomorrow, but, you know, sooner than we think,” said Solomon.
Sugar Lab says the reaction to its work has been incredibly positive.
The sweet treats are available on Sugar Lab’s website, starting at around $25 for six 2.5 cm strawberries filled with chocolate and ginger ganache.
For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.
Video editor • Roselyne Min