Lou Fauteux’s robo-fried dream won’t die.
For 24 years he has toiled away on the CompuFry, a computer-controlled deep fryer capable of cooking in non-ventilated places. The CompuFry has a robotic basket and enclosed air-filtration system. At about 1.2 metres tall, it looks like a large household oven on wheels.
Conventional, open-vat fryers have been a staple in the restaurant industry for more than 100 years, Mr. Fauteux says. “It is a manual operation, and grease vapours must be exhausted to the atmosphere. [CompuFry] eliminates the labour, it saves energy and it reduces the pollution factor.”
But the entrepreneur and inventor has encountered plenty of deflating moments in his business pursuit. A team of managers from McDonald’s, for instance, visited in the mid-1990s and, despite saying they were impressed, never came back.
In fact, Mr. Fauteux, who spent two decades at Garland Canada Inc., a supplier of commercial food-service equipment, set the project aside a few years later for a period after not receiving much interest. “I put it on the shelf and said, ‘Forget this, this is ridiculous… I’m not going to burn myself out over it,’” he laments.
But he came to realize that “this thing is not going away, whether it’s me or somebody else.”
Mr. Fauteux estimates that he and an engineer have spent 6,000 hours at their facilities in Lac-Brome, Que., east of Montreal, and he has invested more than $1.5-million in what he calls the future of fast food.