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Secret sauce for food innovation is a pinch of tech

Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold says technology and food go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Nathan Myhrvold dishes on the future of food at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit.

Screenshot by Alfred Ng/CNET

The future will be delicious when you can 3-D print your own pizza.

Technology was the secret ingredient behind the rise of ice cream, pizza and sushi. Now, breakthroughs in food tech are reinventing your dinner table.

Food innovation will usher in new flavors, imitation victuals indistinguishable from the original and gadgets that will transform your kitchen, Nathan Myhrvold, founder of the Cooking Lab, said Thursday. He made his forecasts at the Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit in San Francisco.

The former Microsoft chief technology officer reminded the audience that technology and food have always gone together, sort of the way peanut butter and jelly have. He cited ice cream, which was a rarity until refrigeration, as an example.

Myhrvold said 3D-printed pizzas and automated pancake robots could soon be as commonplace in American kitchens as refrigerators and microwaves.

The internet has changed the way people eat, with websites like Yelp affecting which restaurants people will go to.

Still, Myhrvold said food innovation has a lot of catching up to do, at least when compared to the rest of Silicon Valley.

"Tech in the kitchen has been remarkably slow for the past couple of decades," Myhrvold said, adding that appliances have been about convenience and cost, not taste. He says smart kitchens will made the difference, helping foodies find new flavors and types of food.

For example, the Impossible Foods' veggie burger smokes and drips like beef does even though it' made entirely of plant products. The bleeding-edge burger is made in a Silicon Valley lab and the faux-meat industry that's expected to top $5 billion in the next decade.

In Myhrvold's own food experiment, he took the alcohol out of whiskey, leaving him with a smokey flavor he described as "weird" and "exotic."

Technology has enabled chefs to create new flavors from scratch and new foods from test tubes. Myhrvold said it should be doing more to take on world hunger.

"There are two billion people who live on a couple of dollars a day or less. They often starve," he said. "We don't tend to use technology to help them."