• Quote: ‘The machine makes rice dishes – not paella – otherwise Valencian people will get really angry’

Quote: ‘It doesn’t make sense to be stirring rice, especially because you’ll be looking at WhatsApp while doing it – and it’ll burn. That won’t happen with a robot’.

By Andrew Atkinson

Spain’s favourite food paella has been cooked by the world’s first ‘robotic paellero’.

“I have been surprised at how good the finished dish was, right down to the crunchy crust – socarrat – when I first tried it,” said Engineer and entrepreneur Enrique Lillo.

Set the programme, load the sofrito, rice, stock and seafood, leave it alone and the robotic arm, hooked up to a computerised stove, will do the rest.

The robot, a joint project between br5 (Be a Robot 5) and the paella stove manufacturer Mimcook, has attracted interest from hotel and restaurant chains, along with a Japanese company.

The idea of a robot making paella br5’s founder Enrique Lillo reasoned it is simply the latest labour-saving device.

“It’s a multifunction robot. Right now it cooks rice, because it’s hooked up to a Mimcook, but you could hook it up to a fryer so it fries potatoes, or you could attach a grill so it can cook burgers, or an oven so it can cook pizza or croissants,” Lillo said.

“At the end of the day, it’s an assistant. I like to say it’s a bit like the orange-juicing machines where you put oranges in the top and get juice out of the bottom.

“That’s a robot too, but people just don’t realise it. So is a coffee-vending machine. No one looks at those and says ‘Crikey! It’s stealing jobs from people!’ No. It’s elevating human capacity,” said Lillo.

Lillo, 41, an industrial engineer who named his company after the robot from the 1986 film Short Circuit, says all the machine needs is a good recipe and the right ingredients.

“The robot will make sure the rice doesn’t burn; that the right amount of stock is used, and it will be there if someone’s having an off day or if your rice cook goes off to work in another restaurant.”

How do I make authentic paella? Lillo said: “The machine makes rice dishes – not paella – otherwise Valencian people will get really angry.

“But it’s quite funny – because the paella is the pan itself – and not the food you cook in it.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to be stirring rice, especially because you’ll be looking at WhatsApp while you’re doing it – and it’ll burn. That won’t happen with a robot.”

Caption: Enrique Lillo: Surprised how good the robotic paellero tasted.

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