Eggless scrambled egg? Insect burgers? Dara O Briain investigates Tomorrow's Food for the BBC

(Image credit: BBC)

Insect burger anyone? How about your coffee being delivered by a drone? Or a pizza vending machine that will make your order from scratch in three minutes?

If these ideas sound a bit far-fetched, prepare to be blown away by the new BBC1 series, Tomorrow’s Food (opens in new tab) (Monday, November 23), which explores the fascinating (if sometimes weird) direction that food in the future is heading.

"We’ve got some mind-blowing stuff to show you," said presenter Dara O Briain. (opens in new tab) "From how to grow meat in a lab, to robots that can be taught to make a bisque by programming them to mirror the hand movements of a Michelin-starred chef. It’s true – it’s bonkers!

"Yet there are cautionary moments too. There are a lot of us demanding to be fed three times a day, and dangers such as climate change are threatening that food supply.

"We look at the cutting edge technology working to counteract that – such as making the clouds rain more in drought-stricken areas. Yes, I did say that – I told you it was mind-blowing!"

TV Times (opens in new tab) talks to Dara, 43, who presents the three-part show with Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett, greengrocer Chris Bavin and technology expert Dr Shini Somara, explains how the way we grow, buy and eat our food is transforming…

Stand-up comic, host of Mock The Week, The Apprentice: You’re Fired! and Stargazing Live, now you’ve turned your attention to food. Is there no end to your talents?

"Is there no focus to my work, you mean! I have a career rolling wildly out of control! Seriously though, I think viewers are OK with me changing hats, especially after I interviewed Stephen Hawking for the BBC this year. People can see I want to inform, not turn everything into a joke, which is great."

What was the appeal of Tomorrow’s Food?

"I wanted to do more science stuff and the BBC thought this was an interesting topic as Britons are mad about food. It’s less about trends; I’m not going to be saying, ‘Next year it’s all about avocados, folks!’. This is more a nerdy show saying, ‘They’re having a drought in Texas and the scientific solution is making the clouds rain more. This is how they do it…’" 

Is it true we’ll one day be able to taste the MasterChef contestants’ food?

"It’s called Virtual Tasting where flavours are generated electronically by a computer. Electrodes run a charge across your tongue that can activate your taste receptors – it worked on the team with me who tried it."

"There’s also a futuristic-looking plant that grows tomatoes above ground and potatoes below on the same stem. It’s not some crazy piece of genetic engineering – it’s called grafting, where you keep slicing and attaching the roots of each plant so they grow together. It works! So efficient – chips and ketchup in one!"

Tell us about the egg-less egg in this week’s first episode…

"This is a team of tech scientists in Silicon Valley who have tested billions of plant proteins and combined those that react to heat the same way an egg does. So you can make scrambled egg without the egg, or use the proteins to bake with, or make mayonnaise. Honestly, the mayo I tried tastes exactly the same as one made with egg and yet it’s lower in cholesterol, and far more efficient than growing a chicken to create an egg."

Any food developments you don’t like the sound of?

"The idea that we’re going to start eating insects. People like eating burgers and if everyone in the world suddenly decides they want burgers we’re going to run out of cows very quickly. So the question is, do we create meat in a laboratory?

"Or as some people are saying, insects are protein and cheap and plentiful so shall we mush them up and cook the cockroach burger? Personally, I think people eat burgers for the taste – not some urge to eat protein – so I’m not sure people will go for it."