Picture yourself floating in space, gazing at the mesmerizing blue jewel through your reinforced window. Suddenly, a chef appears, presenting you with a plate of mouth-watering sushi. How did this futuristic culinary delight come to be? Well, you can thank open meals for that, let’s take a stroll through the history of the future, a tale that unfolds in our present.
In recent months, SpaceX has been launching rockets, paving the way for humanity’s journey to the stars. The dream of inhabiting distant galaxies is no longer confined to the realm of science fiction—it’s on the horizon. And as we embark on this cosmic adventure, one crucial factor comes into play: sustenance.
Enter Open Meals, a groundbreaking project led by the Japanese powerhouse Densetsu, aims to revolutionize the way we think about food in space. In collaboration with Yamagata University and other organizations, Open Meals is delving into the realm of 3D food printing, seeking to bring gourmet delights to the heavens and beyond.
About Open Meals
Launched in 2016 by Ryosuke Sakaki, an art director at Dentsu’s Creative Planning Division 3, Open Meals is on a mission to redefine food preparation. Sakaki envisions a future where, by 2050, astronauts on space missions can savour sushi crafted by renowned chefs in Tokyo.
At the heart of this culinary revolution is 3D food printing, an application of industrial technologies to the world of gastronomy. The cost-effectiveness and simplicity of 3D printing have opened new frontiers, extending its reach to bioprinting and, most notably, food.
Inspiring open meals to open mouths
Sakaki drew inspiration from inkjet printers, marvelling at their ability to reproduce various colours with just four ink cartridges. Applying this concept to food, he selected bitterness, sourness, sweetness, and saltiness as the four key tastes. The experiment involved using ink cartridges filled with seasonings like vinegar and soy sauce to “print” food onto edible paper made from corn.
The result? A taste transformation based on the varying ratios of seasonings. Sakaki realized that a database detailing how different ratios of basic tastes create specific flavors could pave the way for remotely reproducing food with a printer.
The “sushi teleportation” project, a collaboration with Yamagata University, involves a specialized 3D food printer equipped with a water tank and cartridges filled with materials to create tastes, colors, and nutrients. Using a gel-like substance to create diverse textures, the printer builds up small printed cubes to form intricate food dishes.
Sakaki envisions a future where the technology for “food teleportation” allows people in different locations to enjoy the same dishes. He predicts that by 2030, automatic cooking with a 3D food printer, using data on various dishes, will become the norm. And by 2050, Sakaki sees a world where all kinds of foods, including exquisite dishes from renowned restaurants, will be precisely reproduced by printers.
So, the next time you find yourself in space, don’t be surprised if a chef hands you a plate of delectable 3D-printed sushi. Thanks to Open Meals, the future of space cuisine is not just a dream—it’s a tantalizing reality on the horizon.