Randi Zuckerberg ‘Blown Away’ By Chattanooga Visit, Brings New Restaurant Concept To Central City

By Dave Flessner Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Randi Zuckerberg is testing an interactive food and play creation known as "Sue's Tech Kitchen." The concept is a kind of high-tech Chuck E. Cheese and interactive family dining experience to expose more children, especially girls, to develop a taste and excitement for science and tech.

Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

Five months after visiting Chattanooga and meeting what she says were some of the most creative people since her days in Silicon Valley, entrepreneur and tech advocate Randi Zuckerberg returned to Chattanooga Thursday to debut her latest venture to inspire children in science and technology.

Zuckerberg, who has written children's books and created TV characters to interest more girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, is testing an interactive food and play creation known as Sue's Tech Kitchen.

Over the next three days on the second floor of the downtown Tomorrow Building, Chattanooga families will get a chance to test some of the ideas for the tech-fueled cafe and sweet shop experience.

The concept is a kind of high-tech Chuck E. Cheese and interactive family dining experience to expose more children, especially girls in their formative years, to develop a taste and excitement for science and tech gadgets and exploration.

"I'm always encouraging parents to embrace technology into their family's lives in an interactive and healthy way instead of being afraid of it," said Zuckerberg, a New York Times bestselling author and former director of market development at Facebook. "So when I was at a restaurant with my two boys, I thought 'how cool would it be if a drone could deliver our food? Or if we could code with candy?' As a result, Sue's Tech Kitchen is coming to life, and I couldn't be more thrilled to be bringing it first to Chattanooga."

Zuckerberg decided to test out the concept in Chattanooga after visiting the city in February at the invitation of the Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute.

"I was just blown away by the things I was seeing here and the fact that Chattanooga itself seems to be like a startup with an entrepreneurial approach to rebranding and revitalizing itself," she said. "When we thought about where to try out this new concept, I knew this was the exact place we needed to come and launch this idea."

The character Sue, who families meet at the "smart table," combines food and cooking she learned from her chef father with technology she learned from her scientist mother. Sue invites participants into her test lab to see all of the inventions and to try out some of their own.

The Great "Foodini" is a 3-D printer that allows you to make your own s'more snacks. The printer, which was imported from Barcelona, Spain, is one of the first 3-D food printers in the world.

In another room, participants go into "the infinite dimension of gumballs" where families can compete in an interactive game for a bag of gumballs.

In another room, children can learn to code with candy to move a robot around a maze and compete for prizes. "We want a place where families can really engage in food and technology together," said Jim Augustine, chief operating officer for Zuckerberg Media and a partner in the venture.

The kitchen is oriented for all types of families, but Zuckerberg said she is targeting girls 6 to 10 years old as they approach an age where traditionally many girls start saying that math and science is for boys.

"Who knows, maybe one day the person who figures out how to colonize the moon will attribute their love of technology to that time she learned to code using candy while dining with her family at Sue's Tech Kitchen," Zuckerberg writes in a blog about Sue's Tech Kitchen. "A mom can dream, right?"

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