The mailman opens the mailbox, fumbling with the many letters, bills, and magazines that are written out to Ava Shepard. He quickly closes the hinge, trying to avoid the mail falling out onto the damp ground. Ava watches from her kitchen window, drying her KitchenAid mixer with her trusty old rag gifted to her from her Mother In Law last Christmas.
The warm and comforting smell of blueberry muffins and coffee cake fills the house, as the oven timer is beeping in the background. Ava grabs the oven mitts and places one on her hand, pulling the perfectly browned coffee cake out of the oven, which fills the air with the sweet smell of cinnamon and nutmeg. She sets the pans on her counter, allowing it to rest before she takes the coffee cake out of the pans to cool on her baking rack. Ava wipes her flour-covered hands on her apron before opening the front door, headed towards the mailbox.
The cool breeze of October welcomes her when she opens the front door, crunching the fallen leaves with her slippers as she walks down the few steps of stairs. Ava opens the mailbox, greeted with a letter with no return address. Intrigued, she opens the letter before returning into her foyer.
We have been watching you for a long time. You are a wonderful lady. So passionate. So successful. You have been chosen to represent the human race in a culinary competition. The world depends on you, Ava. We will transport you to the facility. Do you have what it takes to defeat Maynard?
The paper slips from her hands as Ava falls to the ground in a panic.
“What? What’s happening? Who wrote this?” Ava whispers to herself. Her breathing rapidly increases as she runs to her office, typing the name “Maynard” into her computer. After clicking enter, Maynard is displayed on the screen; The first robotic chef.
Ava connects the dots through the letter and Maynard, realizing that she is the only person that will be able to stop the invasion of robots through her culinary expertise. As her heart begins to race, she slowly falls out of her swivel chair and passes out on the carpet behind her desk.
The following morning, Ava wakes up in a daze. Quickly opening her eyes in a panic, she sees metal rows of beds alongside hers, but empty. Ava questions how she got here, unable to process the severity of the situation. The silence in the room was broken by an ominous announcement over a public address system:
Good Morning, Ava. We are so happy you were able to join us. Today, you will be competing against maynard in a culinary competition consisting of three rounds, appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The winner will dictate who has the rights to planet earth; humans, or robots. Take these next few minutes to compose yourself, then exit the room when the timer reaches zero. We wish you the best of luck.
A bright red timer appears above the large double doors in front of Ava, counting down by the second from five minutes. Ava quickly changes into the clothes she found neatly folded on the foot of her bed. She runs into the bathroom, finding her contacts resting in a case on the counter, just as if she were at home.
As the timer strikes zero, the doors open in a timely and consistent manner. She hesitantly walks through the doorway, greeted with fully furnished rows of stainless steel kitchens, a large variety of kitchen appliances, and a mimicked grocery store layout filled with fresh produce and household stables.
A similar voice appears from the speaker, advising Ava to settle into her labeled kitchen. Her shocked state allows for smooth transitions, analyzing the variety of knives, appliances, and gadgets provided to her for the competition.
Laying on the cutting board is a manila folder labeled “Rules and Regulations”. Found inside is a packet filled with rules in numeral order, having to follow each and every one in order to succeed. After reading carefully through the pages, the back doors swiftly open, as figures covered head to toe push Maynard to its designated kitchen area. The competition is about to begin.
Ava and Maynard are facing each other, as their kitchens are on opposite sides of the room. The metal tabletops send shivers down Ava’s spine as the stagnant air in the room causes everything to be cold to the touch. The first round consists of an appetizer of the chef’s choice; Ava chooses stuffed mushrooms paired with a glass of merlot, while Maynard expresses that it is preparing a french onion soup.
The twenty minute timer begins to diminish by the second, as Ava and Maynard begin to prepare their appetizers. Ava’s confused state leads her to be captivated by Maynard and its abilities, watching it chop and saute the onions perfectly. With ten minutes left on the clock, Ava places her stuffed mushrooms in the oven, quickly basting the outsides with a garlic and herb compound butter. She pours three glasses of merlot, waiting for the mushrooms to finish so she can efficiently plate the meal before the timer ends. Maynard expels beef broth from the machine, slicing the baguette into thin pieces with its other limb. Frustration increases in Ava, as Maynard seems to not be able to make any mistakes. The timer ends as Ava and Maynard present their appetizers on silver platters to the masked judges. Silence is followed by an announcement over the speaker:
The winner of the first round is Maynard. Maynard was able to execute a perfect and comforting bowl of french onion soup, while Ava’s stuffed mushrooms fell short. The winner of the culinary competition needs two wins out of the three rounds. The entree round will begin in fifteen minutes.
“What? Are you kidding me?” Ava mutters underneath her breath. The reality of the situation is setting in, knowing that the next round will dictate the outcome of the world.
Ava hesitantly returns to her assigned kitchen, nervously shaking as she ties her apron around her waist. The timer is reset to thirty minutes, starting the moment Ava runs to the produce and meats. She starts preparing for her euntree, lobster risotto, as Maynard prepares a Filet Mignon with garlic red mashed potatoes. Ava cracks open the lobster, cleaning the meat out of the shell before boiling the white rice. Maynard has the steak seared in a pan with butter and rosemary, slicing the potatoes and cutting them in uniform shapes before placing them into the boiling water. Ava tastes the lobster risotto before plating her entree, confident in her skills. The judges take a bite of each dish, analyzing the many components that make up a successful dish.
The winner of the second round is Ava. The filet mignon Maynard provided was previously freezer burnt, as it was not able to be smelt or tasted before presenting it to the judges. The third round will consist of dessert, starting in ten minutes announced from the speaker.
Ava quickly composes herself, realizing the advantages she has over Maynard. Her many years of experience come down to this one moment, preparing a dessert that she is very comfortable with. The timer resets to forty minutes after the kitchens are cleaned and reset. The timer starts counting down as Ava starts sifting the flour and sugar for her coffee cake. Maynard quickly whips up the filling for its rhubarb pie and forms the crust around the pan. It places the pan in the oven as Ava rushes to create her brown sugar crumble to add in between her two layers of cake. Ava’s concentration was broken as her vision started to blur and her nostrils were filled with smoke. She quickly glances at Maynard, noticing the metal arms were stuck in the oven, as the plastic lining was quickly melting over the pie crust. The warehouse quickly fills with smoke as Maynard was physically incapable of turning on the exhaust fan. Ava places her coffee cake on the platters, following the same recipe she had made yesterday morning.
Due to unexpected circumstances, Ava has won the third round, as well as the entirety of the competition. Humanity will continue to thrive due to the success of Ava Shepard.
Ava breaks a smile as a tear falls down her cheek for the first time during the competition, overwhelmed with pride and confusion. The double doors open, motioning for Ava to return to her bed. She slowly changes back into her previous clothes, takes her contacts out, and crawls into bed.
Ava wakes up the next morning in her office, slowly rising herself off the ground behind her desk. Her joints crack when she finally raises to her feet. She closes the numerous tabs on her computer and closes it shut. Ava wanders into the kitchen, welcomed by the fresh coffee cake sitting on the counter.
“Moley – the World’s First Robotic Kitchen.” Moley.com, 2019, www.moley.com/.
The robot chef in my story is influenced by the first robotic kitchen named Moley. Moley controls every aspect of cooking food, including altering the recipes, controlling calories, replaces ingredients, and cooking the meals. These advancements in technology are taking over the world, influencing everyday events that many people gain pride and enjoyment from. There are many visual differences between a human and robot cooking, but the judges will have to decide based on many other factors, including presentation, taste, and execution.
“Here’s Where to Order My New Cookbook, “Super Easy!”” The Pioneer Woman, 8 June 2021, www.thepioneerwoman.com/ree-drummond-life/a36660863/ree-drummond-super-easy-cookbook-sneak-peek/ . Accessed 2 Nov. 2023.
My main character is influenced by Ree Drummond, a home chef commonly known as “Pioneer Woman” to the cooking community. She is known for her determination and wit, teaching the community about proper cooking techniques and sharing new recipes she creates. She grew up not knowing what her future would be, committed to finding her passion in cooking and social influence, showing off her southern lifestyle to the community. She is very confident in her work, knowing her way around the kitchen.
Kulve, Marije Te, et al. “Exploring PM2.5 Exposure of Chefs in Professional Kitchens.” ASHRAE Journal 64.9 (2022): 16,18,20,22,24-26. ProQuest. Web. 16 Oct. 2023.
The setting of the story is in a professional kitchen, similar to the set up of cooking competition shows, such as Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen. The setting is very important to the story, as the competitor robot will run into issues with the ventilation system. Unlike Ava, the robot will not have the appropriate senses to detect the need for the exhaust ventilation fan to be turned on, sabotaging its chances of winning the competition. The article also mentions the flammability and exposure levels of different types of food while cooking, which will impact the judge’s decisions on which food items they will choose for the competitors to create.