Hire Raspberry Pi as a robot sous-chef in your kitchen

Design Engineering student Ben Cobley has created a Raspberry Pi–powered sous-chef that automates the easier pan-cooking tasks so the head chef can focus on culinary creativity.

Ben named his invention OnionBot, as the idea came to him when looking for an automated way to perfectly soften onions in a pan while he got on with the rest of his dish. I have yet to manage to retrieve onions from the pan before they blacken so… *need*.

OnionBot robotic sous-chef set up in a kitchen
The full setup (you won’t need a laptop while you’re cooking, so you’ll have counter space)

A Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the brains of the operation, with a Raspberry Pi Touch Display showing the instructions, and a Raspberry Pi Camera Module keeping an eye on the pan.

OnionBot robotic sous-chef hardware mounted on a board
Close up of the board-mounted hardware and wiring

Ben’s affordable solution is much better suited to home cooking than the big, expensive robotic arms used in industry. Using our tiny computer also allowed Ben to create something that fits on a kitchen counter.

OnionBot robotic sous-chef hardware list

What can OnionBot do?

  • Tells you on-screen when it is time to advance to the next stage of a recipe
  • Autonomously controls the pan temperature using PID feedback control
  • Detects when the pan is close to boiling over and automatically turns down the heat
  • Reminds you if you haven’t stirred the pan in a while
OnionBot robotic sous-chef development stages
Images from Ben’s blog on DesignSpark

How does it work?

A thermal sensor array suspended above the stove detects the pan temperature, and the Raspberry Pi Camera Module helps track the cooking progress. A servo motor controls the dial on the induction stove.

Screenshot of the image classifier of OnionBot robotic sous-chef
Labelling images to train the image classifier

No machine learning expertise was required to train an image classifier, running on Raspberry Pi, for Ben’s robotic creation; you’ll see in the video that the classifier is a really simple drag-and-drop affair.

Ben has only taught his sous-chef one pasta dish so far, and we admire his dedication to carbs.

Screenshot of the image classifier of OnionBot robotic sous-chef
Training the image classifier to know when you haven’t stirred the pot in a while

Ben built a control panel for labelling training images in real time and added labels at key recipe milestones while he cooked under the camera’s eye. This process required 500–1000 images per milestone, so Ben made a LOT of pasta while training his robotic sous-chef’s image classifier.

Diagram of networked drivers and devices in OnionBot robotic sous-chef

Ben open-sourced this project so you can collaborate to suggest improvements or teach your own robot sous-chef some more dishes. Here’s OnionBot on GitHub.

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