Meet Sally, the Robot Who Makes Perfect Salads

Kate Krader wrote . . . . . .

Silicon Valley’s newest celebrity chef goes by just one name, Sally. This chef has just one specialty: salad.

Still, Sally will make you the most perfectly proportioned salad you’ve ever eaten: through science. Sally is a green-and-brown robot, a brand-new creation from Chowbotics Inc. (that’s a real name) and a major new player in a potential multi-billion market for food-service robots.

Sally occupies about the same amount of space as a dorm room refrigerator, and uses 21 different ingredients—including romaine, kale, seared chicken breast, Parmesan, California walnuts, cherry tomatoes, and Kalamata olives—to craft more than a thousand types of salad in about 60 seconds, while the customer watches the process. The machine weighs in at 350 pounds, making it more appropriate for industrial settings than for home kitchens at the moment. “Sally will be going on a diet,” said its creator, Deepak Sekar, 35, founder of Chowbotics Inc., looking into his and Sally’s future.

The benefits of Sally are manifold, according to Sekar. “Sally is the next generation of salad restaurant,” he claims, comparing it to chains such as Chopt and Fresh & Co. For one thing, a robot can make salad faster than a human can. Also, you will know precisely how many calories your salad is delivering; there won’t be the problem of consuming one piled high with garnishes that turn out to be more fattening than a burger. And it’s more hygienic to have a machine prepare your salad than to have multiple people working on a line—or worse still, a serve-yourself salad bar.

Sally does require a human set of hands to prep the ingredients that go into its canisters, which are then installed in the robot. (Sekar called the process of chopping ingredients in the machine “too complicated right now,” although it’s something he promises for the future; he offered an analogy: “It’s like paper getting stuck in a printer; it shuts down the process.”)

This spring, Sally will debut in Silicon Valley, at Mama Mia’s, a fast-casual restaurant in Santa Clara, Calif., and at the corporate cafeteria at H-E-B Grocery Co. in Texas. The public launch will come on April 13 at co-working space Galvanize in San Francisco, where the public will be able to order Sally’s salads.

Sally’s current list price is $30,000; there will be an option to lease one for about $500 per month. Chowbotics will start delivering pre-orders of Sally in the third quarter.

Sekar hopes to see Sally installed soon in hotels, where business people check in late and room service is dreary, as well as at convention centers, airports, and gyms. Sally will be a key amenity for fast food chains such as McDonalds, exponentially expanding the array of fresh offerings. “If a location installs Sally, they’ll have a thousand kinds of salad, using fresh ingredients, while their kids are eating Big Macs and fries.” He noted that the ingredients are fresh and kept in refrigerated compartments—stored better than at many salad bars. And then there’s the millennial-oriented, ‘eat-o-tainment’ opportunity of watching a salad be assembled by a machine.

According to Sekar’s plans, Sally’s next incarnation will be as an instantaneous deliverer of ethnic foods—Chinese, Mexican, or Indian—possibly even breakfast, depending on the demand. Much farther down the line, Sekar envisions home versions of Sally. “Remember the first computers in the ‘60s were the size of a room. An affordable home food robot might not take decades to create, but it won’t be next year.”

Sekar built the first prototype of Sally in 2014. “ I’ve always believed that cooking is fun. But during the week, life is so rushed between work and family. When I looked at time I spent cooking, 85 percent was spent doing repetitive tasks, like chopping. I wanted to do something else with that time.” His first robot focused on prepping the Indian food that he and his wife cooked at home, such as spiced, fried cauliflower. The owner of more than a dozen McDonald’s in the San Jose area, Cosme Fagundo, was impressed enough to help Sekar bring it to market.

Chowbotics has $6.3 million in funding from such notable venture capital sources as Techstars and Foundry, the company behind Fitbit and 3D printers. “The machine I created for Indian cooking looked like a modified 3D printer,” noted Sekar. “But instead of plastic shapes, it was making food.” Now Rich Page is executive chairman at Chowbotics; Page built some of the first Macs at Apple, and worked with Steve Jobs at NeXT. “Sometimes he’ll look over my shoulder and say, ‘Steve made that same mistake 20 years ago, so I think I’m doing something right,” laughed Sekar.

He’s also brought in Google’s original chef, Charlie Ayers (employee No. 56) to be Chowbotics’s executive chef.

Ayers, who owns Calafia Café in Palo Alto, Calif., is a salad specialist who is also used to making food in mass quantities. (By the time he left Google, in 2006, Ayers was serving 4,000 lunches and dinners a day in 10 cafes across the Google campus.)

“A few of the things that I love about robots is that they don’t come in late, they don’t talk back, and they’re always accurate,” said Ayers over the phone. “And the labor savings.”

Ayers doesn’t lose sleep over the inevitable loss of kitchen jobs in Silicon Valley “I don’t feel like I’m betraying my brothers and sisters by replacing them,” he said, resolutely. “It’s happening in every industry now. You can either fight it, or be on the team that makes it happen.” He added: “People will find other things to do. Like fixing salad-making robots.”

At Google, Ayers said, he first entertained the idea of a food robot. “Engineers are notorious for never launching anything on time. They’d come down and see me in the kitchen, and I was always on time. They said, ‘Imagine what you could do with a robot.’” When Sekar approached him, he got on board.

Ayers and fellow former Google chef Kelly Olazar have since programmed a few specialty salads. These include:

  • Sally’s Salad (romaine with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, walnuts, Parmesan, and black peppercorn ranch)
  • The Power Chow Salad (kale with cabbage, sun-dried cranberries, walnuts, and honey mustard vinaigrette)
  • The Silicon Valley Salad (seared chicken breast with kale, mixed bell peppers, olives, crunchy wonton chips, and honey mustard).

The few items you won’t find in a Sally-made salad include, curiously, avocado—one of California’s signature ingredients. “It doesn’t interact well with the machine,” explained Ayers, presumably because the soft flesh makes it hard to apportion via automation. Sliced cucumbers are missing, too, though Sally can dice them. Chopped salad is off the list. And though Sally is currently stocked with romaine, Parmesan, and croutons, there’s no Caesar salad dressing—yet. Sally’s ingredients will change periodically, so the team reported that Sally might soon be dispensing Caesar salads.

Source: Bloomberg

North African-style Couscous with Simmered Cod and Vegetables

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
8 oz baby carrots, trimmed
8 oz baby turnips, quartered
2 sticks celery, cut into chunks
2 cups fish stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1-1/2 teaspoons tabil (optional)
8 oz baby zucchini, trimmed
1 bunch green onions
8 oz tomatoes, peeled and quartered
4 oz shelled peas
2-1/4 1b skinless cod fillet
2-1/2 cups couscous
harissa to serve

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft.
  2. Add the carrots, turnips, celery and stock. Season generously with salt and pepper and add the saffron and tabil (if using). Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini and simmer for 10 minutes then add the green onions, tomatoes and peas.
  4. Cut the fish into large pieces and place on top of the vegetables. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until the fish flakes easily when tested with a knife.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare couscous as directed on the packet.
  6. To serve, pile couscous in a large heated serving dish. Arrange vegetables over couscous and place fish on top. Stir harissa, to taste, into broth and pour as much as desired over the couscous. Serve extra broth and harissa separately.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: North African Cooking

In Pictures: Food of Tao Downtown in New York City

Miso-glazed Sea Bass Satay

Chicken Satay

Salmon Tartare

Spicy Tuna Tartare on Crispy Rice

Lobster Wonton in Shiitake Ginger Broth

Pad Thai Noodles with Shrimps

Lobster Three Ways

Shanghai Fried Rice

Dessert: Giant Fortune Cookie, Mochi, Brandy Ice Cream, Bread Pudding Doughnuts, Creamy Coconut Custard

The Restaurant

Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid to Fight Breast Cancer

Danielle Dresden wrote . . . . .

While there is no one single food or diet that can prevent or cause breast cancer, diet is an area in which individual choices can make a real difference.

Breast cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors. Some of these factors, such as age, family history, genetics, and gender, cannot be controlled.

However, there are factors that individuals can control, which include smoking, not exercising, being overweight, and their diet. Some researchers maintain that diet could be responsible for 30 to 40 percent of all cancers.

Top foods to eat to fight breast cancer

Breast cancer can start in different places, grow in different ways, and require different kinds of treatment. Just as certain cancers respond better to certain treatments, certain cancers respond well to specific foods.

The following foods are considered part of a healthful diet in general, and they may help to prevent the development or progression of breast cancer:

  • a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables
  • foods rich in fiber, such as whole grains, beans, and legumes
  • low-fat milk and dairy products
  • soybean-based products
  • foods rich in vitamin D
  • foods, particularly spices, with anti-inflammatory properties

A study of more than 91,000 women found that following a diet comprising mainly plants could cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 15 percent. The Ida & Joseph Friend Cancer Center recommend between 8 and 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Along with their other benefits, fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, which are linked to a host of medical benefits. Studies have found the following fruits and vegetables to be good for preventing breast cancer:

  • dark, green, leafy vegetables
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • citrus fruit
  • carrots
  • broccoli
  • kale
  • onions
  • apples
  • pears
  • peaches
  • strawberries

Dietary fiber

Although research into dietary fiber and its effect on breast cancer is currently inconclusive, several studies suggest that it can help protect against the disease. Because fiber supports the digestive system and regular elimination of waste, it helps the body to get rid of toxins and limits the damage they can do.

Whole grains and legumes also contain antioxidants, which can help to prevent many diseases. Eating more fiber-rich legumes, such as lentils, has also been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Ida & Joseph Friend Cancer Center recommend 30 to 45 grams of fiber per day.

Good fat

Fat might seem an unlikely candidate for a list of good foods for breast cancer prevention, but polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats have been called the “good fats.” They are found in olive oil, avocados, seeds, and nuts.

Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish such as salmon and herring, have been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. Many experts recommend a diet in which around 20 to 30 percent of daily calories are from fat, with no more than 8 percent of total calories from saturated fat.

Soy

Extensive research over the past 25 years has identified soy as an extremely healthful food source, rich in protein, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals, but low in carbohydrates. In addition to reducing the risk of breast cancer, soy is also reported to reduce low-density lipoprotein, or “bad cholesterol,” and lower the risk of heart disease.

Soy is found in foods such as:

  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • edamame
  • soy milk
  • soy nuts

Benefits of these foods

Some studies have found that the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish might be due to its ability to reduce inflammation, a possible contributing factor for breast cancer.

Researchers suggest that fiber contributes to the prevention of breast cancer by helping the body eliminate estrogen. Many breast cancer treatments are designed to keep estrogen from interacting with breast cancer cells, so eating a high-fiber diet can support this process and accelerate the elimination of estrogen.

Beta-carotene, found in vegetables including carrots, has been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Scientists speculate that this may be because it interferes with the growth process of cancer cells.

List of foods to avoid and why

As scientists continue to explore the impact of different foods on the risk of breast cancer, people are generally advised to cut down on alcohol, added sugar, fat, and red meat.

Alcohol

Studies have identified a link between regular alcohol consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer. Breastcancer.org report that alcohol may increase estrogen levels and cause damage to DNA cells. They also note that women who drink three alcoholic beverages per week increase their risk of developing breast cancer by 15 percent. The risk goes up by around 10 percent with each additional drink per day.

Sugar

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have found that when mice eat a diet as rich in sugar as the typical American diet, they are more likely to develop mammary gland tumors, similar to breast cancer in humans. In addition, these tumors are more likely to spread, or metastasize.

Fat

Studies suggest that not all fats are bad. While fat from processed foods is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, fat from fruits and vegetables is associated with a decrease in risk.

Trans fats have now been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and should be avoided. Trans fats are most commonly found in processed food such as fried foods, some crackers, donuts, and packaged cookies or pastries.

Red meat

Although research is ongoing, some studies have found a link between red meat and a greater likelihood of breast cancer, especially if the meat is “well done.” In addition, processed meats and cold cuts tend to be high in fat, salt, and preservatives and are not considered effective food for breast cancer prevention.

Source: Medical News Today

The Consumption of Legumes is Associated with a Lower Risk of Diabetes

Recent results from the PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterranea) study show a protective association between total legumes consumption, especially lentils, and the risk of developing subsequent type 2 diabetes after more than 4 years of follow-up of 3349 participants at high cardiovascular risk. Moreover, the present study shows that replacing a half a serving/day of eggs, bread, rice or baked potato with a half a serving/day of legumes was also associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Legumes are a food group rich in B vitamins, contain different beneficial minerals (calcium, potassium and magnesium) and sizeable amounts of fibre and are regarded as a low-glycemic index food, which means that blood glucose levels increase only slowly after consumption. Due to these unique nutritional qualities, eating legumes regularly can help improve human health. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) declared 2016 as the international year of legumes to raise people’s awareness of their nutritional benefits.

Although legumes have long been though to offer protection against type 2 diabetes (which is a significant health problem worldwide affecting more than 400 million adults in 2015), to date there has been little research to confirm this association.

To increase the general level of knowledge in this area, researchers from the URV’s Human Nutrition Unit in collaboration with other research groups in the PREDIMED study evaluated the association between the consumption of the different sub-types of non-soy legumes and the risk of type 2 diabetes among individuals at high cardiovascular risk. They also evaluated the effect of replacing other protein- and carbohydrate-rich foods with legumes on the development of the disease.

Researchers analysed 3349 participants at high risk of cardiovascular disease but without type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the PREDIMED study. After 4 years of follow-up, the results have revealed that compared to individuals with a lower consumption of total legumes – lentils, chickpeas, beans and peas- (12.73 grams/day, approximately equivalent to 1.5 servings per week of 60g of raw legumes), individuals with a higher consumption (28.75 grams/day, equivalent to 3,35 servings/week) had a 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Of the different subtypes of legume, lentils in particular were associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Those participants who had a higher consumption of lentils during the follow-up (nearly 1 serving/week) compare to those individuals with a lower consumption (less than half a serving per week), had a 33% lower risk of developing the disease. The researchers also found that the effect of replacing half a serving/day of foods rich in protein or carbohydrates, including eggs, bread, rice and baked potato, for half a serving/day of legumes was also associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes incidence.

The researchers highlight the importance of consuming legumes to prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, but state that further research must be conducted in other populations to confirm these results.

The study, published in the scientific journal Clinical Nutrition.

Source: Universitat Rovira i Virgili


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