The Scoop: By bringing cutting-edge technology to the culinary arts, The Sugar Lab has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible when serving cocktails, pastries, and other dishes. This California-based design team has perfected 3D food-printing technology to create beautifully complex and colorful sugar sculptures for premier chefs, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. And, as of September 2020, The Sugar Lab will offer its unique edible decorations and garnishes to home chefs, engaged couples, and anyone planning a special event.
Kyle and Liz von Hasseln are high school sweethearts who share a passion for architectural design. The married couple were in grad school at the Southern Cali Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles when they became fascinated by 3D printing technology and everything it was capable of creating.
As they experimented with the school’s 3D printer, the couple discovered that it could print sugar sculptures. At first, Kyle and Liz didn’t think their sweet designs had any real-world application. Then they thought of the culinary scene and asked some local chefs if they were interested in making sugar creations.
“We were floored by the reception that pastry chefs had for the technology,” Kyle said. “We have found that top-level pastry chefs love doing cutting-edge work and are always looking for tech that can push them to do something amazing.”
Kyle began collaborating with chefs over 10 years ago, and now he is the CEO of The Sugar Lab, which developed the first 3D food printing technology that can create large and complex sculptures out of sugar.
From the beginning, Kyle said he felt a kinship with chefs because they were both artists at heart. Kyle had notebooks full of design plans, while the chefs he worked with had notebooks full of recipes and plating plans. Their collaboration took culinary dishes and cocktails to another level, and the reputation of The Sugar Lab grew beyond L.A.’s food scene.
The Sugar Lab has worked with dozens of world-renowned chefs, including “Top Chef” winner Mei Lin and “Cake Masters” star Duff Goldman. However, this startup company has been growing and adapting to go beyond the elite culinary scene and make sugar sculptures available to home chefs, event planners, and couples marking a special occasion.
Starting in September 2020, The Sugar Lab will provide on-demand 3D-printed food manufacturing for couples with big imaginations and big appetites.
Chefs Experiment With Artistic Designs & Interactive Plating
The Sugar Lab originally appealed to high-end chefs looking to push the boundaries of the culinary scene, but now it’s tapping into a broader market of home chefs who want to wow their loved ones with one-of-a-kind dishes.
Couples planning an engagement party, wedding, birthday celebration, or another special event can consult with The Sugar Lab to design and print a unique cake topper, cocktail garnish, or confection.
The Sugar Lab has perfected several 3D concepts that can be personalized to meet the customer’s needs. The team can make many complex shapes and color the sugar in precise patterns, and they have experience working with chefs to incorporate different brands, themes, and decorations into the design.
“The company is really infused with L.A.’s vibrant art scene and mixed with diverse food cultures and leading complex architectural designs,” Kyle said. “All those things influence the literal shapes we make and the relationships we develop with our customers, who are all chefs and artists in their own right.”
These sugar sculptures can elevate the work of bartenders and bakers, and they can be a pretty sweet way to show off one’s creativity. The 3D-printed creations are fun interactive decorations that look brilliant, complement a variety of dishes, and dissolve upon contact with a liquid.
The Sugar Lab invites creativity and experimentation, and it has facilitated some stunning culinary projects. Kyle told us he has fielded requests for 3D-printed smoked salt as well as cube-shaped sugar vessels that can hold fresh berries on the edge of a cocktail glass.
Once The Sugar Lab opens to the public in September, the team expects to see more creative and challenging orders come in.
The Sugar Lab is a wonderful resource for engaged couples looking for that extra wow factor on their wedding day. The edible sugar sculptures can make a unique topping for a wedding cake or garnish for the signature drink, and the team will personally work with couples to bring their vision to life.
As a married man, Kyle said he is sympathetic to the challenges facing brides and grooms in 2020, and he plans to use The Sugar Lab to bring extra joy to their delayed celebrations. He told us he’s working on a discount program to help couples who had to postpone their wedding due to the pandemic. He expects to roll out a formal program soon.
One-of-a-Kind Garnishes & Cake Toppers for Celebrations
Foodies of all types have flocked to The Sugar Lab in hopes of adding a sweet treat to special dinners and events. Sometimes an executive pastry chef has specific ideas about the sculpture’s design, and other times hospitality executives just want something impressive to support their brand. Businesses with all types of branding projects have used sugar to capture attention, and now it’s the consumer’s turn.
In the coming months, The Sugar Lab team is looking forward to working with consumers to make graduations, weddings, and other parties a little more memorable and unique.
The Sugar Lab can create all sorts of intricate, colorful, and eye-catching shapes that are all the more beautiful because they are so delicate.
Whether it’s a hollow sugar cube dissolving in a drink or a geometric sculpture sitting atop a cake, The Sugar Lab’s culinary creations can change the way people view and consume their food. It’s a simple addition that can inspire a memorable experience.
In 2014, The Sugar Lab worked with Modernist Cuisine in Seattle to create a one-of-a-kind absinthe cocktail. Executive Pastry Chef Francisco Migoya planned a 50-course meal celebrating famed Spanish chef Ferran Adrià’s 50th birthday, and The Sugar Lab’s cocktail was the final course.
Each drink came with a tall sugar sculpture that evoked the image of the chimney towers in Spain where Ferran was born.
The Sugar Lab has inspired many artistic creations in the culinary scene, event planning, and even the fashion world, and its technology has great potential in the wedding industry as well.
“The 3D printer is relevant because it builds on decades of work that pastry chefs have pioneered,” Kyle said. “It’s not really new at all. It’s just in the same vein of trying to make ever more elegant, precise, and captivating edible sculptures.”
Sugar Lab’s Culinary Printworks Can Elevate Any Dish
From elegant vessels to geometric cake decorations, The Sugar Lab’s creations come in many different forms, and they all fire up the imagination.
Kyle and his wife have collaborated with many premier chefs to create modernist dishes and cocktails that wouldn’t be possible by traditional methods, and, starting in the fall of 2020, the 3D-printing technology is going to be available to home chefs and engaged couples across the country.
Looking to the future, The Sugar Lab has plans to expand beyond sugar and develop new ways to use 3D printing to shake up the culinary world. The R&D team is interested in finding ways to add proteins to the mix and allow professional and home chefs to get more creative in the kitchen.
“It’s been so rewarding to work on products in the tech space that are actually physical, not just software,” Kyle said. “Our products are principally about indulgence and celebrating, so that means our customers are always excited and celebrating a special moment in their life. Each project is fleeting, but continuously heartwarming.”