How exactly did the food dispensers work on the Constitution class Enterprise, and other ships of that period?

Originally I thought they were just fancy ordering and preparation systems, maybe even with a human on the other end, that dispensed what you ordered like machines in an automat. However in "Tomorrow is Yesterday", someone said he wanted some chicken soup and a man put a card into a slot next to the dispenser, pushed a button, and a bowl of chicken soup instantly appeared from the food hole. It took the same amount of time as a TNG replicator. So there must be some techno-magic at work. Is this explained anywhere? How did the food get created and delivered that fast?

I'm only interested in answers from the "prime timeline" and the Original Continuity. (not the New/Discovery Continuity) Otherwise, evidence from any non-canon material is acceptable. Logical theories also welcome

3 Answers 3


There's a footnoted line in David Gerrold's "The Trouble With Tribbles" (the book, not the script) addressing this:

TEASER: INT. SHIP'S GALLEY--KIRK is talking to COOKIE, the ship's cook, and a colorful character he is...2

2 No, he isn't. The Enterprise doesn't have a ship's cook, only a mess officer to program the automatic machinery. (Source: Gene Coon) (Well, I didn't know...)

page 79 of the November, 1974 fourth printing of the Ballantine Books paperback.


In the book The Making of Star Trek by Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry pages 189-190, it says there is an area that crew members can prepare individual meals if they wish otherwise it is highly automatic. The food is then sent by mini turbo lifts to various areas around the ship.

  • Is that a direct quote?
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 14:51
  • @dean1957 That's actually a very good reference, better than the one in my answer (wish I had checked there!). If you quoted the text about the machinery, I think you will have an excellent answer. Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 15:10
  • The answer I gave is in an entire paragraph did not want to have to type it all out, sorry.
    – user76394
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 15:21
  • "The food preparation galley is also highly automated. No chefs in white hats here." ..."From the central food preparation area, the selection is transferred via a small turbo lift that connects the several dining and recreation areas scattered through out the ship."
    – user76394
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 15:26
  • As a side note: On Archer's Enterprise someone only known as Chef (never seen) prepared meals for the crew if I can recall from the series.
    – user76394
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 21:36

lets not forget that in "The Trouble with Tribbles" Kirk ordered soup and a sandwich and tribbles appeared with the food. They also mentioned food stores. So it stands to reason that no they arent replicators.

  • Unless certain foods come from stores and others don't. Does all of your food come from the same place?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 23:44
  • Im not living on a make believe starship
    – A. A. Roth
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 4:17
  • I don't believe you
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 8:35
  • Well you caught me. I am currently living on a Correllian freighter in orbit around your puny planet. We'll be participating in the Kessel run in the coming weeks and stopped by to have a drink in one of your earthly drinking establishments. Hopefully there'll be no trouble. My friend Chewie and I look forward to meeting a fellow smuggler.
    – A. A. Roth
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 18:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.