Cooks’ space to be in­fused with science

San Francisco Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Kauff­man

Fi­nally, some­one has come up with a so­lu­tion to that eter­nal cook­ing quandary: flip­ping through a stack of cook­books, pick­ing out just the right recipe, then curs­ing to our­selves. If only we had bought that $700 cen­trifuge!

Dan Mills, a for­mer pro­gram­mer at Mozilla and Cre­ative Com­mons, is pre­par­ing to open Tin­ker Kitchen in the Mis­sion Dis­trict, the first “maker space” in the coun­try for am­bi­tious, science-minded cooks.

Pro­jected to open in spring, Tin­ker Kitchen will have a cen­trifuge (of course), not to men­tion a combi oven (if you knew what it was, you’d want one), a choco­late-

tem­per­ing ma­chine and a pasta ex­truder. Mills said he is still search­ing for an af­ford­able ro­tary evap­o­ra­tor, what­ever that might be. Am­bi­tious cooks will have ac­cess to the so­phis­ti­cated gad­gets by rent­ing time or tak­ing classes.

The Bay Area has been the U.S. cen­ter of an in­ter­na­tional maker move­ment since Maker Me­dia in San Fran­cisco be­gan Maker Faires in 2006. “The maker space con­cept works well be­cause we are so­cial,” Make magazine ex­ec­u­tive editor Mike Se­nese said.

“They like to work on projects to­gether, to share ideas and gain in­spi­ra­tion,” he said. “As we move into the fu­ture, and as tech­nol­ogy ad­vances to pretty incredible points, the best way to get ac­cess to these is through a com­mu­nal space.”

A San Fran­cisco chain of maker spa­ces called TechShop, which housed equip­ment such as laser cut­ters and metal lathes for mem­bers to use for projects, filed for bank­ruptcy in the fall, but in­de­pen­dent bio­hacker labs and hacker spa­ces con­tinue to pro­lif­er­ate, both around the Bay Area and across the United States.

Tin­ker Kitchen sim­ply trans­lates the idea into a com­mer­cial kitchen. Mills said he came up with the con­cept in 2015 while puz­zling over how to store yet an­other new high-tech cook­ing ap­pli­ance he’d pur­chased in his liv­ing room. “I’m a nerd, so I go deep on the science of these things,” he said.

He thought it would be easy to set up. “All I need to do is find a space and buy a bunch of kitchen gad­gets,” he said to him­self. That was three years, and $450,000 of his and his fam­ily’s money, ago.

Today, he’s fin­ish­ing the floors on his 1,700-square-foot space on 22nd Street near the Mis­sion Mer­cado farm­ers’ mar­ket, a few blocks away from Mis­sion Street’s Civic Kitchen, a new cook­ing school that just opened. Pal­lets of “in­sanely ex­pen­sive” ma­chines are on their way to Tin­ker. The health depart­ment has been con­sulted.

Mills en­vi­sions Tin­ker Kitchen as a space where the cu­ri­ous can pay $25 per day to cook in the space, or they can sign up for a class, and the truly com­mit­ted can buy a monthly al­lac­cess pass for $125. There should be room for four to five groups to work on projects at a time, as well as a din­ing room area for guests to con­sume any con­sum­ables.

The space will in­clude a reg­u­lar six-burner stove and, thank­fully for ev­ery­one, some­one to wash the dishes.

While overtly science-geek cook­ing faded from restau­rants at the be­gin­ning of the cur­rent decade, tech­niques em­braced by chefs at that time, such as sous-vide cook­ing and cre­ative de­hy­drat­ing, con­tinue to en­trance project-ori­ented home cooks, who ap­pre­ci­ate learn­ing the physics of meat along­side the work­ings of their pres­sure cooker.

Tin­ker Space is de­signed for the kind of cook who owns sev­eral im­mer­sion cir­cu­la­tors and stained copies of J. Kenji López-Alt’s “The Food Lab” cook­book and “Mod­ernist Cook­ing at Home.” The kind of per­son who has re­moved the smoke de­tec­tor from the kitchen be­cause it in­ter­feres with home cof­fee roast­ing. Tin­ker Space may be peak San Fran­cisco. It might also be fun.

“I’m try­ing to cre­ate a com­mu­nity of peo­ple who come back and back to the space,” Mills said. Per­haps they’ll swap liq­uid nitro­gen ice cream recipes. Maybe they’ll cook for one an­other.

“Maker spa­ces are gen­er­a­tive spa­ces,” he said.

Dan Mills (right) works with his father, Raul Mills, to open Tin­ker Kitchen in the Mis­sion Dis­trict, the first “maker space” in the coun­try for am­bi­tious, science-minded cooks.

Con­trac­tor Ri­cardo Lizama (left) works with Dan and Raul Mills on Tin­ker Kitchen.

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