Meet – Peter So Food Roboticist
Peter started his career developing custom robot systems for the solar industry. Since then, he has worked in the semiconductor, mobile, automotive and food and beverage industries. Peter is currently with Nourish Technology Inc. teaching robots how to cook in the kitchen. He aspires to make healthy and delicious food, fun and affordable for the active, on-the-go city dweller. When he’s not working, he enjoys cycling, backpacking, working on his car, woodworking, and occasionally participating in dance-offs in Motown bars.
Nourish Technology Inc. aims to make high quality food a consistent and routine part of the workday morning. Their vision is to disrupt the fast food industry by producing healthy and delicious fast food. Their first retail concept is the breakfast box, or “BBox.” BBox is a micro-restaurant from which robots make and serve hot, made-to-order breakfast sandwiches and delightful coffee. Nourish just launched their first micro-restaurant in Chicago to help thousands of people get their first win of the day.
Why did you decide to go into this profession?
For as long as I can remember, I have had a huge fascination for mechanisms . My first job out of college was at a promising solar company – Solyndra – which boasted a heavily automated operation and provided my first encounter with robotic arms. But, I wanted to make machines that could empower the people around them and so when the opportunity came in the food industry, I took it. I never planned to work in the food industry, but I am excited and thankful to share my love of robotics with others.
Can you describe a typical day?
It is widely known that there is no such thing as a typical day at a startup. I spend my mornings designing new mechanisms before my team arrives. Then we have a daily standup meeting to review activities or obstacles. Most of the day, I am in meetings learning about new business leads and cooking technologies. As you can imagine, my favorite days involve menu tastings with the culinary team.
What part of your work brings you the most joy?
I get the most joy from teaching people how to use our robot to prepare a new recipe. Our interdisciplinary team relies heavily on one another to deliver results. There is never a dull day at work. One of the core values at Nourish is to empower others, and the best days are when we can work with extremely passionate people and share new skills with each other.
Do you have a favorite food? What is it?
I love meals with simple recipes and quality ingredients. For special occasions, I enjoy going out to sushi with friends for soft shell crab, lobster and tuna.
What is the most important tool for you in the kitchen?
The most important tool in any kitchen is the oven. For us, it’s exciting to watch our robotic arms prepare, assemble and cook our amazing creations.
What is the funniest moment you remember while working in the shop?
One of the first pieces of equipment we got for our office was a kegerator to serve cold coffee. We received a new nitro tap for the cold brew kegerator and excitedly pulled off the tap before turning off the pressure to the connected key. Before we could react, coffee was exploding all over the lab. The team had to quickly disconnect the hose. After the havoc and a little cleaning, we happily enjoyed fresh nitro cold brew coffee on tap.
Any words of advice for kids thinking about growing up to be engineers in the food industry?
Find friends to learn, share and compete with in local competitions. Participate in your local DIY groups both in food and robotics. The friendships you make there will help you get through the long hours of troubleshooting your next great breakthrough. Take the time to learn where your food comes from and how it’s made. There is enough science and discovery to last a lifetime!