CIA Forms Partnership For 3D Printed Food

Jan 8, 2015

Chef Vaccaro, working on a white beetle mold that combines traditional techniques with the new technology.
Credit Courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America

The International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas wraps up tomorrow. Officials from Hyde Park’s Culinary Institute of America were on hand to showcase the possibilities in 3D printed food. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne spoke with a CIA dean who was there to unveil the next big thing to hit the professional kitchen.

It’s the intersection of 3D food printing and culinary arts. And The Culinary Institute of America is on the cutting edge. In a new partnership with Los Angeles-based 3D Systems, CIA is unleashing the potential of technology and food, eager to bring it into the classroom. Tom Vaccaro is dean of Baking and Pastry Arts at CIA. He explains why the technology works best in the pastry arts arena, for now.

“Right now, the technology is in place for printing sugar and chocolate. Because the mediums are able to be stored and held at a temperature, it can be printed quite easily. So we just took that and ran with it and said, okay, we could do many different things with these printers and here’s our ideas,” says Vaccaro. “In the future, CIA believes that there is some potential for other printing. We just don’t know what that it is yet. But if I think about what’s happening in fast food, there might be something there where some fast foods are printed instead of handmade.”

He says he started discussions with 3D Systems about six months ago and has a Parisian beetle to show for it.

“What we did is we decided that we were going to make the base of the beetle out of ceramic, which is all printed, out of ceramics, and I would bake individual cakes inside the ceramic beetle, the cavity of it, and then finish it and decorate it just like any other traditional cake,” Vaccaro says. “And then there would be a very ornate, printed granulated sugar, or white sugar, wing span that sits over the top.”

The finished Parisian-style beetle dessert.
Credit Courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America

He says the decision to go with a Parisian beetle came from another intersection of sorts, interest in ornate, gilded French jewelry and French confections. Daniel Freedman is dean of the School of Science and Engineering and director of the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center, home of 3D printing, at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

“The neat thing about 3D printing is that it can be applied in almost any area imaginable where you make something real,” says Freedman. “And it’s just a lot of fun watching it develop in different areas, in areas that require completely different expertise.”

He says the CIA has been at the forefront of using technology in the culinary arts.

“3D printing food is one of those areas that’s been talked about a lot and this is the first commercial food-related printer that has hit the market,” says Freedman. “And I’m sure the Culinary Institute is going to be able to do some fantastic things with it.”

The CIA plans to begin a beta testing program with 3D Systems’ ChefJet™ Pro, being touted as the world's first professional-grade food 3D printer, expected to be available later in 2015. The full-color printer will be food certified and produce edible 3D printed confections—from custom candies to ornate cake toppers. The CIA’s new endeavor adds another layer to the burgeoning field of 3D printing in the Hudson Valley. Again, Freedman.

“We’re really at the forefront in doing things with 3D printing in a number of ways. And SUNY New Paltz has taken the lead in implementing 3D printing both in education and in reaching out to businesses in the area to help them develop businesses around using the high-end 3D printers we  have on campus,” says Freedman. “Plus, of course, MakerBot, down at the southern end of the Hudson Valley, is the world’s leading manufacturer of desktop printers. So there’s a real nucleus of expertise in industry in the region.”

3D printing used for ornate decorations on red velvet cupcakes.
Credit Courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America

The CIA’s Vaccaro explains that 3D printed food technology cuts down on time and can provide instant gratification in place of going the traditional mold-making route.

“Get into your program, and there’s many different style programs, graphic programs, you can use, design your mold on the screen, and hit print, and out it comes,” says Vaccaro. “And it’s not a mold out of plastic. It’s a mold out of what you want it to be. So it just shaves off all of that back-and-forth time.”

3D Systems plans to provide CIA students with fellowship and internship programs at The Sugar Lab, its Los Angeles-based 3D printing culinary innovation center.