An innovator with both food and equipment, United States Lines executive chef Otto Bismarck is credited with the introduction of the first microwave oven on an ocean liner. Introduced in 1947, the new cooking technology was derived from radar research in World War II.
Called ‘Radar ranges,’ the first commercial models did not sell well. They were expensive ($5,000) and bulky (the size and weight of a refrigerator.) By 1950 the price dropped to $1,500 and so did the size. That’s when Bismarck experimented with the new ovens on the America hoping to improve freshness and cooking time. The experiment worked and the new S.S. United States would boast of being equipped with the new ‘high tech’ radar ranges.
On kitchen tours Bismarck enjoyed showing off the new ‘Radar Ranges’ although he never understood how they functioned. “I think it has something to do with radar,” explained the chef as he demonstrated how quickly it cooked a steak. “I am not sure how it works. It sort of electrocutes the food.” (Life aboard Aluminum Anne by Don Iddon.)