“There really isn’t a difference between a Michelin Star chef and our Tovala,” says David Rabie with the hint of a smile.
Apart from the circuit-boards, perhaps?
Rabie, a Chicagoan entrepreneur and former Google intern, is striving to “make it easier for people to eat better”, using smart technology.
His solution is Tovala — a product-service system built around a steam oven that can take a digital recipe and a carton of pre-prepped ingredients, and turn them into haute cuisine.
From the user’s perspective the process could hardly be simpler. A box of chef-prepped ready meals arrives at your door every week; you pop one into your Tovala whenever you like; then you simply scan a QR code on the meal’s packaging to tell the oven how to cook it. Within 10–30 minutes, your meal is ready.
The whole experience is unprecedentedly frictionless for the consumer — which according to Rabie, is exactly the point.
“I wanted to eat food that was healthy, convenient, delicious, and did not require any decision-making. And I wanted to do it quickly,” he says.
“The only way to solve that problem was to control everything from the sourcing of the ingredients to exactly how they’re cooked, so that I can enjoy the same meal that our chefs make in our test kitchen, anywhere in the world, at any time.”
And these are no ordinary chefs he’s talking about. According to Rabie, “A lot of our culinary team has trained and worked at Michelin Star restaurants, so they bring that skillset to our meals and make it relatable — and still as delicious as it might be in a great restaurant.” At the time of writing, the next upcoming recipes on Tovala’s agenda include beef and cauliflower picadillo, chicken tagine, herb roasted salmon and veggie bourguignon.
As you might expect, this lavish field-to-fork service comes at a price. Tovala’s pre-prepped meals cost $12 per serving, whilst the oven itself will set you back $199, $299 or $399, depending on how many meals you order upon purchase.
Rabie’s hope — and undoubtedly his belief — is that Tovala represents enough of an upgrade on existing smart kitchen appliances to persuade time-poor, diet-conscious customers to take the plunge.
“The reason we’re only just at the cusp of seeing smart technology embedded in kitchen appliances is that we need to find real utility for the tech,” he says.
“We think we’ve found that utility with Tovala. Embedding smart tech into the oven allows us to change our recipes and improve your oven every week, to deliver a great app experience where we’re adding pre-sets and making it easier for you to cook better, and to really take full advantage of the fact the oven is connected to wi-fi.”
David Rabie isn’t the only one who believes Tovala to be the oven of the future. Late last year the company secured fresh funding to the tune of $9.2 million, with investors Origin Ventures, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Joe Mansueto, Larry Levy, and the Y Combinator seed accelerator all lining up to back the project. Perhaps just as valuably, its meals have won rave reviews from the likes of Wired, Mashable and Business Insider.
Rethink Cooking, urges Tovala’s tagline. Of course, the fact is that they’ve rethought it for us.
Words by Pete Wise. Interview via LAMA.
Feature image ‘Teriyaki Salmon with Sesame Brown Rice and Garlic Snap Peas’ made by Tovala.