Tucked among the gadgets and gizmos at the Consumer Electronics Show, held here earlier this month, was a prototype oven that refrigerates food and initiates the cooking process with a phone call or remote Internet command.
According to Tonight's Menu, the Brecksville, Ohio-based business that developed the networked cooling and cooking system, their patented technology allows working moms or any consumer on the go to prepare meals in advance and arrive home to a fully-cooked repast.
"Everyone would like to serve healthy, home-cooked meals, but with today's busy lifestyles, no one is home to cook," explained founder/president/CEO David Mansbery, who was motivated by his family's reliance on fast food. "We've solved this problem by creating a new appliance."
The Tonight's Menu system, designed for use in conventional and microwave ovens, is comprised of a Peltier cooling unit; insulation; an Intellon thin-server; and proprietary software that transmits the real-time operating conditions of the oven via CORBA feedback, allowing the cook and refrigeration modes to be changed remotely. The GUI software, written for Microsoft Windows, also calculates the cooking time and mimics actual appliance controls.
Mansbery noted that the system's "brains" and refrigeration capability add little to the overall size or appearance of the ovens, and only $100 to the manufacturing cost.
The company is presently pitching its concept to major appliance manufacturers, and believes the first production units could be ready to hit the market within one to two years.
But Tonight's Menu may have already lost the first-to-market race: A similar product by Whirlpool, dubbed the Polara Refrigerated Range, is expected to debut at next month's International Builders Show in Atlanta.