Fall 2018 Course Schedule

Class photos are uploaded here.

September 28

In Class:


  • Food design research 101

  • Empathy interview 101

Homework (Due 10/5):

October 5

In Class:

Drink design and sustainability

• Boba Guys (Andrew Chau)


Homework (Due 10/12):

Summary by Katherine Du:

Andrew Chau, founder of Boba Guys, visited ME 195A at Stanford University on October 5, 2018. Chau was selling ranch dressing at Clorox when he founded and worked at Boba Guys part time in 2011. As his business became increasingly successful, he made the difficult choice of choosing to pursue Boba Guys full time over becoming the General Manager of Coke Asia. Ultimately, Boba Guys, a bootstrapped company now worth $40-50M, expanded from the SF Bay Area to NYC and LA.

Boba Guys, whose purpose is to bridge cultures, faced an interesting dilemma when California instituted a straw ban. Chau was a major supporter of the ban, and he helped pioneer alternative straws, such as a cardboard straw and a sugarcane straw he passed around the class. Chau is currently in the process of writing a Boba Guys book to share more of his insights and experiences to the world.

Part of Chau's entrepreneurial advice to the class was a quote from Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World in which Adam Grant states: "The most successful originals are not the daredevils who leap before they look. They are the ones who reluctantly tiptoe to the edge of a cliff, calculate the rate of descent, triple-check their parachutes, and set up a safety net at the bottom just in case."

October 12

In Class:

Food Delivery

  • UberEats

  • Starship

Homework (Due 10/19):

• Submit your questions for Bear Robotics and Creator HERE

  • Read:

Short of Workers, Fast-Food Restaurants Turn to Robots

This Restaurant Robot Is Designed To Help Servers–Not Replace Them

Robots Are Making $6 Burgers in San Francisco

Summary by Katherine Du:

Alizae Charania, Head of Program Management at UberEats, and Chris Neider, Senior Manager of Business Development at Starship Technologies, visited ME 195A at Stanford University on October 12, 2018.

Charania, Stanford Graduate School of Business alumna and former DoorDash employee, worked in consulting for a year before starting an electricity company in Texas. She later joined DoorDash and, subsequently, UberEats, driven by a vision to improve deliveries to "an everyday, everyone level." Charania told the class that food is the third largest expenditure for the average consumer, and online delivery is merely five percent of the total market. Among numerous details, UberEats has to pay attention to food quality, temperature control, restaurant selection, nutrition information, and accurate ETAs. Instant UberEATS originally had pre-packaged options, but once Uber realized customers wanted more selection, UberEATS Marketplace launched in Toronto. This stand-alone app offered consumers flexibility. UberEATS achieved a $1B run-rate less than a year later, and now it's crossed the $6B run-rate mark. Less than half of UberEATS's business is in the US. Virtual restaurants now rely on UberEATS to provide intuitive data on gaps in the marketplace.

Neider helps run business development at Starship Technologies, a company specializing in self-driving robotic delivery vehicles. He began his presentation to a class with a Starship Technologies sizzle reel explaining the food delivery system. Starship is aiming to automate food delivery; their robots have driven the equivalent of four times around the world. Starship pioneers an advanced, affordable, autonomous robot that can scale, and envisions one robot costing less than $5M. Among several challenges Neider mentioned, Starship faces privacy issues from robot cameras, so Starship leverages technology to blur people in the robot-captured imagery. Starship's vision is about streamlining movement to offer people a better quality of life, and delivering people the gift of time through everyday delivery magic.

October 19

In Class:

Automation in Food


Homework (Due 10/26):

• Submit your questions for Salt Point Seaweed and Memphis Meats HERE

Summary by Katherine Du:

John Ha, CEO of Bear Robotics (a robotics/AI company automating casual dining), invited the class to reflect on what a restaurant means. Prior to embarking on an entrepreneurial journey and starting Kang Nam Tofu House, he worked at Google. Ha spoke about how the restaurant industry is currently at risk due to rising minimum wage, labor shortage, and delivery food. Behind the curtain, customers don't think services are not worth the tip; employees don't think salaries are worth the hard work; and operators think profit is not worth the time and effort. To solve this cycle of pain points, Ha found a solution: AI & robotics. At Bear, the entry product was an autonomous runner robot that does the hard work and is a dependable resource. Ha deployed the robot at Kang Nam Tofu House in Milpitas, CA, serving over 20,000 customers (with zero accidents), yielding +18% tip per server, and +28% sales. Ha thinks Bear Robotic's CEO is customers, and he shared a demo video about Bear's robot in action and how, while incredibly helpful, the robot could never replace human servers.

Michael Balsamo, Director of Hardware Engineering at Creator (a burger robot restaurant), joined the team in November 2014. His self-described engineering style encapsulates developing empathy for the end user, asking "why" questions to understand fundamentals and illicit underlying function/wants, and rapidly prototyping in order to learn and de-risk projects. Creator focused on automating burgers because Americans love burgers, and automating the burger creation process allows increased burger quality and volume. Creator believes in a market (consumer) pull rather than a technology push solution, and wanted to find the best way to provide customers high quality, customizable burgers at a price point approachable to nearly any consumer. Technology should elevate, not eliminate, the human experience. Creator's product is not the robot, but the holistic experience of eating a burger. From a design process standpoint, Balsamo emphasized starting from the understanding the problem before trying to create solutions.

October 26

In Class:

Seafood/Plant-based Food

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Homework (Due 11/2):

Summary by Katherine Du:

Tessa Emmer and Catherine O'Hare, co-founders at Salt Point Seaweed, visited ME 195A on October 26, 2018. The three species that Salt Point Seaweed is interested in introducing to the Bay Area are Kombu (Laminiara Setchellii); Wakame (Alaria Marginata); and Nori (Pyropia Tenera). Salt Point Seaweed partners with companies such as Volcano Kimchi, which incorporates Salt Point's seaweed into kimchi. 

Emmer and O'Hare began their presentation with a detailed description of seaweed harvesting, which culminates in late spring to early summer. In particular, harvesting for seaweed happens very early in the morning at extremely low tides; the life cycle of seaweed is synced up with the moon. Emmer and O'Hare provided "Surf Snack: Seaweed + Seeds" samples to the class; the product was made of Nori and Wakame as well as organic seeds such as those of sunflowers and pumpkins. 

The co-founders have also been working in seaweed farming, which can ameliorate the environment. Salt Point has helped partners such as Hog Island Oyster Co grow seaweed. Emmer and O'Hare believe the Bay Area is a sweet spot for their company because a variety of cuisines and cultures flourish in the area. 

David Kay, Manager of Communications and Sustainability at Memphis Meats, presented on Memphis's lab-grown meat. Kay said meat as a product tastes delicious and is a core component of human history and culture. Ninety percent of the world's population eats meat, and this statistic is expected to increase in the next few years. Modern meat production uses a third of Earth's fresh water and land, causing 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. 

Memphis Meats is changing one step in the meat harvesting creation process by obtaining high-quality cells from animals and deducing which cells provide the optimal texture and taste. Instead of growing these cells within an animal's body, Memphis grows them inside cultivators: big, steel tanks instead of which meat is brewed. Memphis feeds the cells the same macronutrients as they would receive in an animal's body. Cells take these macronutrients and eat them, multiplying. 

In Memphis's media debut to the world, it announced the cell-based beef meatball. A year later, Memphis unveiled its cell-based poultry product. At scale, Memphis expects its products to require less than 10 times reduction in greenhouse gases, water, and land use. In addition, bacterial contamination in conventionally-produced meat occurs at the point of slaughter, but Memphis reduces this risk because it eliminates slaughter. Memphis's investors include Bill Gates and Richard Branson, as well as financial investors such as DFJ and Atomico. Food icons Cargill and Tyson also sponsor Memphis, which is planning to initially release its products in high-end restaurants.

November 2

In Class:

Designing Food Futures

  • IDEO CoLab (Rebecca Chesney)

Homework (Due 11/9):

Summary by Katherine Du:

Rebecca Chesney, Food Innovation Expert and Senior Business Development Lead at IDEO CoLab, presented on "Futures + Design" at ME 195A on November 2, 2018. For the last five years, she worked at Food Futures Lab at Institute for the Future. Chesney said Samsung and IBM are creating ADEPT protocols to enable appliances to act as consumers. ADEPT leverages self-executing smart contracts based on blockchain technology to provide a secure, low-cost way for these devices to interact. Walmart has been leading the way for testing blockchain in the supply chain, announcing it will require all leafy green suppliers to upload their data tot he blockchain by September 2019. 

Chesney presented an IFTF artifact from the future in which humans hypothetically have AR contact lenses that show them data and information about the food in their fridges. She also mentioned Carnegie Mellon University's Bettinger Lab, which created a digestible diagnostic sensor by replacing components of the the battery and packaging with biodegradable and ingestible materials -- such as replacing lithium with melanin. Moreover, Chesney brought up Los Angeles-based Kokiri Lab's Habit.at, a prototype of a holographic animation to accompany a child's meal, creating a story that makes eating vegetables fun. AR, Chesney argued, will leverage computer vision to make blended reality storytelling in the kitchen more precise and engaging.

Chesney engaged the class in an interactive activity to tell a future story.

November 9

In Class:

Sustainable Insect Farming

  • Nordic Food Policy Council (Afton Halloran)

  • Tiny Farms (Jena Brentano)


Homework (Due 11/16):

  1. Read: The culinary incubator business model 

Writing Assignment (Due 11/16):

For the upcoming field trip on Nov 16th, we plan to leave campus at 3 pm and come back by 6 pm. Given the fact that it is just before Thanksgiving break, we would like to give you an option to write a make-up essay if you cannot join the field trip.

Here's the prompt: 

Read The culinary incubator business model and write a short essay (max 700 words) on 

(1) your thoughts on the future of culinary incubator, and 

(2) your recommendations based on what you have learned by listening to the challenges of food entrepreneurs throughout this quarter. 

The deadline is 6 pm on Nov 16th. Please email your essay to Summer.

Summary By Katherine Du:

Jena Brentano, co-founder of Tiny Farms, specializes in cricket rearing based in California. Founded in 2012, Tiny Farms focuses on smart, scalable insect rearing and processing. Factoring in efficiency problems with cricket farming, Brentano highlighted the "cricket first" mentality in terms of climate, access to feed, access to water, security, space, traversable habitat, and durable habitat for rearing crickets. Secondly, Tiny Farms considers the farmer needs, which range from safety and comfort (work space, weight/height of interactions, hygiene) to morale (purpose/mission, compensation, agency, enjoyable job). Business needs include consumer needs, scalability, profitability, and fundability. Brentano passed out samples of crickets to the class.

Afton Halloran, external consultant at Nordic Food Policy Lab and the Nordic Council of Ministers, spoke about understanding the contribution of edible insects to food systems. For her Ph.D. dissertation, she studied cricket farming in Thailand and Kenya. In 2008 in Uganda, Halloran was finishing her undergraduate degree and encountered a vendor selling crickets to eat at a market. Ultimately, Halloran helped developed Green Insect, a four-year project to examine how insects contribute to green economy in Kenya and support the Kenyan ecosystem. Halloran also examined cricket farming in Thailand, where the process is extremely well-regulated. She analyzed chickens and crickets, and came to the conclusion that the environmental impact of crickets is less than that of chickens.

November 16 -> Cancelled due to poor air quality

Field Trip: Food Innovation Incubator Visit (3pm - 6pm)

  • KitchenTown, San Mateo


Homework (Due 11/30):

  • Watch: Chef’s Table Season 3, Episode 1 (Trailer)

November 23

Thanksgiving Recess (No class!)

November 30 -> Kitchentown Field Trip

In Class:

Food, Lifestyle and Happiness

  • Philosopher Monk Chef Jeong Kwan


December 7

In Class:

Reflection and Closeout

Snack Potluck!

Homework (Due 12/12):

  • Write: the reflection paper