Friday, September 20, 2013

State-of-the-Art Baking

Interview with Laura Horstmann, CEO, COO
Precibake Ovens

By Kathryn Gordon of Food Startup Help

Kathryn:  Hi Laura!  I met you with your Precibake crew from the US and Germany at a bread baking event at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education).  Tell me more about your exciting new project!

Laura:  We’re about to launch a new intelligent oven at IBIE (International Baking Industry Exposition) in Las Vegas in October.    The intelligence will support the baker, and is available in a variety of oven models.

Kathryn:  And how did this type oven evolve?

Laura:  My parents own Kemper and WP Bakery Group, a large commercial equipment company in Europe.  We’ve been in the US since 1990 as Kemper Bakery Systems. 

For this project, I am leading the marketing side.  My partner in this joint venture with Precibake, Ingo Stork, did his electrical engineering research in Munich and PhD at M.I.T., developing algorithms for helping cars drive themselves using camera technology. 

That product is also useable for other industries.  So now we are working together to use that intelligent camera software in ovens and revolutionize the baking world.

Kathryn:  Can you explain more about the concept?

Laura:  The ovens use the algorithm to detect whatever has been put inside it to bake.  They are completely programmable very easily by the chef.  If you’re an artisan bakery like Balthazar and you like your product to bake more dark to appeal to your customer base, the oven can learn your preferences (from your last bread bake) and adjust the heat for optimal success.  Or, if you own a supermarket or franchise chain and you do not want your employees adjusting anything, it can be set to do that as well.  You as the baker can basically give the oven feedback each time you bake, ultimately making the oven more responsible for success than your staff.

Kathryn:  Why did you decide to launch this new type of oven in the US?  

Laura:  A lot of food industry trends come from the US.  I think change is driven by America.  And we wanted to launch at IBIE because it’s the most innovation-friendly industry trade show in the country.  Come try out the ovens!

Kathryn:  I am meeting you at 175 Varick Street at WeWork.  There’s quite a trend for shared workspace – do you like it?

Laura:  We needed to rent office space in NJ (where engineers take apart ovens for the R&D) and NY with flexible space for various engineers and interns.  Several others on our team are working in Germany -- I’ve been travelling back and forth from Germany weekly.  The WeWork space is versatile and allows expansion as we add staff without having to relocate and remodel continuously.

After the oven launch next month, we will utilize the existing service support network for WP through Kemper Bakery Systems because they understand the existing software in our ovens.  So now they will help customers install, program and troubleshoot the new line of ovens regionally.

Kathryn:  Should I assume all this fabulous and innovative technology comes at a high price?

Laura:  No, we believe the future costs less.  Camera technology is not costly, so these ovens are not more expensive than other ovens. 

Kathryn:  Thanks Laura; it’s all very exciting, and I can’t wait to bake some French macarons in one of the new ovens! 


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