Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Jonas M. Luster

Jonas M. Luster

Food scientist (el Bulli), developer

Posted in chef, developer, food, linux

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Jonas M Luster. I am a culinary scientist with a focus on restaurant operations management and modern restaurant design, mostly in the back of the house. I try to bring as much 21st century into cooking as I can, both through tech and through food science. I am a visiting researcher with the el Bulli Foundation in Roses, Spain.

Somewhat tied into this is my interest and work on Quantified Self technology, from recording everything I do to A/B testing tools and their impact on my performance. Eventually this all turns into recommendations and papers on performance and quality improvements in food service, mostly fine dining.

What hardware do you use?

A bunch of 40,000 BTU burners, mostly. On the tech side it's Nexus 7 tablets because of the NFC support. We're shifting all our experimental inventory management and tracking to NFC and believe that's the future for restaurants since it's fast and doesn't require clean lenses as a barcode reader would. You'd be amazed how dirty stuff gets in a humming kitchen.

Personally I am on a "relatively" modern PC from 2009 running ArchLinux, carry a Samsung Galaxy S3 on which I also dev-test the kitchen management stuff, and a Sony Vaio Series 13 laptop. Anything bigger than that wouldn't fit on the line with me. Most of the time, though, I am just on my Asus Transformer with attached keyboard or a Chromebook with which I am currently playing around. A few Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards are always around to manage temperatures in our immersion circulators or control ovens via Bluetooth thermo probes.

An AAXA Pico Projector is in my bag at all times - it works well if you want to show things to small audiences that don't fit around your computer. A wall in a restaurant is always available.

My cooking hardware consists of an 8" Mac chef's knife and the usual tools (honing steels, fish flipper, duct tape, Sugru which you can't ever have enough of and is the coolest thing to hit my kitchen in a long time) in a ChefPak because that thing comes with a laptop sleeve and enough space to store all my non-cooking stuff, like solder and flux, away from cooking equipment.

And what software?

I develop in vim, much to the chagrin of my Eclipse-using friends. Internal CMSes are based on Jekyll, personally I use WordPress for my blog. I am using Redis a lot for Pub/Sub type operations and Ruby for desktop and web apps that control, for example, ordering and ticketing systems. At some point we want to be able for a waiter to see how far along each dish is just by having ovens and line stations tell a central server.

I write my cooking works and the occasional "that's what it's like to be a chef" short story in Sublime Text. On the Chromebook I use ShiftEdit because it speaks SFTP. I know I am not the only one but there aren't many chefs who keep all their recipes in hand-written XML checked into a Git repository and run XQuery queries over it for Christmas dinner menu ideas.

Adobe's Edge Inspect makes developing for the mobile web so much easier for me.

Recently we have started playing with Google Apps Script and Google Apps to make it easier for local purveyors to connect directly to restaurants. We have a rudimentary prototype running and hope to have, by mid-2013, a system where Farmer Frank can whip out his Nexus 7, scan a crate, and offer it to Chef Corrie who needs precisely what he's selling, twenty miles away. Without middlemen, just middleware.

We manage source in-house in Git with an eye on publishing it all in one block into Github as Open Source as soon as we have a working prototype kitchen setup.

As a cook by training and soul I am super agnostic towards software in most cases as long as it doesn't get in my way of making good food and supporting me in getting products and selling plates with food on them.

All my data is in Google Drive, now, since I got a free 100G with my Chromebook.

What would be your dream setup?

I'd love to have more smart appliances with hackable or open operating systems. Industrial ovens already run an OS that's not even remotely taxed by keeping temperatures even, we could do so much more if those serial ports were addressable and would communicate with the cook. I'd love to eventually build a full test kitchen in which we could cook and code at the same time without worrying about diners and covers (number of diners served).

The "Open Source Kitchen" is a dream of mine since forever. For this to happen we have to develop apps and tools (hard- and software) that aren't guarded by jealous, closed, technologies and providers. We'll get there but it's slow.