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El Segundo Eats: Stellar Pizza

This new concept is a “spaceship on wheels” that automates the creation and cooking of pizza via robot.

By Maureen Kingsley

A red Stellar Pizza truck houses a fully automated pizza-making robot
A team of 23 SpaceX engineers built the Stellar Pizza “spaceship-on-wheels,” which costs around $300K per unit, Benson says.

Benson Tsai, co-founder and CEO of Stellar Pizza and a former SpaceX engineer, is leveraging the power of robotic technology to create what he calls “the next great American pizza chain.” The first of what he expects to be many bright-red-and-white Stellar Pizza trucks containing fully automated pizza-making equipment was unveiled to media outlets in Hawthorne last month. Requiring very little human labor, occupying hardly any real estate, and incurring minimal overhead costs, each Stellar Pizza truck creates and cooks a fresh, hot, twelve-inch pizza in about 4.5 minutes from start to finish. And because the only labor cost involved per truck is the driver’s wages, Benson explains, those wages will be exceedingly fair, and the quality of pizza ingredients used will be very high. The price of each pizza, however, will be intentionally low: around $7 or $8 each, depending on toppings.

Benson Tsai (pictured) plans to introduce Stellar Pizza trucks at pop-up events throughout the South Bay. His long-term plan is to place them in neighborhoods throughout Southern California and beyond, and to send them out to schools to teach kids applied technology and engineering in a fun, relatable way.

“The goal is better, faster, more affordable, more accessible food” made available to communities, Benson says. He anticipates the first two to three trucks getting out into South Bay neighborhoods this spring—with further growth from there.

The customer ordering experience is, of course, automated as well. Orders are placed and paid for via smartphone app, Benson explains, after which the pizza is prepared and cooked within minutes.

A smooth sequence of automated robotics presses the dough ball flat, applies sauce and cheese, slices and applies toppings, and cooks the pizza at high heat.

Benson is a South Bay native whose parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan and ran a fish-and-chips restaurant during his childhood. Entrepreneurship runs in his family, he says, and Benson is continuing that legacy, starting up Stellar Pizza after working at SpaceX for five years designing batteries. Pizza, he recalls, was one of the few American fast foods he was permitted by his parents to indulge in as a child; so it holds a special place in his heart. “While the robotics are super-cool,” he says, “we are very focused on the food itself. We spent four to five months focusing on the recipe” and sourcing ingredients, he adds.

A smooth sequence of automated robotics presses the dough ball flat, applies sauce and cheese, slices and applies toppings, and cooks the pizza at high heat.

The pizza is a thin-crust variety with an airy, flavorful dough and a puffy outer edge. The sauce has a bright flavor and is well seasoned. Available toppings include the usual pepperoni, vegetables, and Hawaiian options, and such sauces as hot honey and a spicy ranch are available on the side.

Stellar Pizza mobile pizza restaurant is on Instagram at @eatstellarpizza.

Photos by Maureen Kingsley and Jenny Gardner

This story appears in the January 2022 issue of The El Segundo Scene.

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