Cooks’ space to be infused with science
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.