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Zume Pizza reveals what it’s like making a cameo on ‘Silicon Valley’


HBO/”Silicon
Valley” and Skye Gould/Business Insider

Part of the brilliance of HBO’s sitcom “Silicon Valley” is that
leans on real-life
people
and
events
to show the silliness inherent in the tech industry.
Some of its gags are so nuanced, they’re easy to miss.

On the second episode of season four, the gang sits around the
table eating pizza and tossing a ball. Eventually, Erlich, a
character who owns the startup incubator where they live, moves
the party outside and takes the pizza boxes with him.

Blink and you might have missed it, but the boxes were round and
made of something other than cardboard. It’s the only tell-tale
sign that this was no ordinary pizza. In fact, the pizza — made
by pizza delivery startup Zume
Pizza
— was created by robots. The characters never mentioned
the pizza, nor were they shown actually eating it.

Zume Pizza is located
in Mountain View, California — the heart of Silicon Valley.
Founded in 2015, the company
aims to make better pizza more quickly
by using robotics in
the kitchen.


zume pizza robot 0218
A robot dispenses sauce on an uncooked pizza crust in
the kitchen at Zume Pizza.

Melia
Robinson


Robots use artificial intelligence to accept orders and
make highly customizable pizzas. The kitchen can turn out 288
pizzas an hour.

In an email to Business Insider, the team at Zume Pizza
revealed what it was like making a cameo on the show set.

“I’ve loved Silicon Valley right from the offset — long
before I ever moved to the area,” Zume Pizza’s executive chef
Aaron Butkus said. “So when we were asked to have our pies as
part of the show, I was thrilled.”


silicon valley zume pizzaHBO/”Silicon
Valley” and Skye Gould/Business Insider

Producers at “Silicon Valley” reached out to the startup
last October about using the pizza as a prop in the new season.
The company sent 10 empty pizza boxes to the producers so they
could check out the design.

In addition to looking unusual, the boxes are made from
sustainably farmed sugarcane fiber, which is recyclable and
compostable. The bottom of the container has sloped ridges and a
recess in the center that force liquids to pool where they won’t
touch pizza and make it soggy in transit (though you can’t make
those details out on the show).

Within a few weeks, Butkus and his brother drove from the
Bay Area to a studio in Culver City, California, for the
shoot.


silicon valley zume pizzaHBO/”Silicon
Valley” and Skye Gould/Business Insider

“The main challenge [was] that there would be no oven on
site, and we wanted to ensure the pizza looked as if it was
really delivered by Zume, not some substitute version,” a
spokesperson for Zume Pizza says.

Butkus brought 14 partially baked pizzas to the set, along
with a portable oven to reheat and style the pizzas properly.
When the brothers were told they were shooting the scene around
the table, they finished cooking the pizzas and handed them off
to the props crew.

They made nine “Veggie Jackson” and five “Cheezy E” pies,
that “turned out perfectly,” according to the
spokesperson.

“While we weren’t able to go on set (to keep plot
developments confidential), we saw the cast from a distance
coming and going from their trailers and studio,” Butkus
says.

After the episode was taped, Thomas Middleditch, who plays
Richard on the show, met with Zume Pizza cofounder Alex
Garden at the company’s office.

Zume Pizza currently delivers robot-made pizza in Mountain View,
and is gearing up for an expansion across the South Bay.


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