Are computer chefs the future of food? - KMSP-TV

The Big Idea

Are computer chefs the future of food?

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Chefs at the Institute of Culinary Education in Chelsea are cooking up something new, something different, something revolutionary.

Chefs James Briscione and Michael Laiskonis are creating a Filipino tomato salad with ingredients they've never used together: dried chili pepper, paprika, tomato, bamboo shoot, celery, shrimp paste. The idea came from a computer.

You may remember Watson from "Jeopardy" back in 2011. The so-called supercomputer beat two former champs. Watson is powered by cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer. It's doing everything from coming up with cancer treatments, or in this case, coming up with recipes.

By gathering information about ingredients, their flavor compounds, and nutrition facts they we can help people discover new food pairings or recipes, according to Florian Pinel, a software engineer from IBM and also a trained chef. He has combined his two passions to come up with a cognitive cooking project.

Where on "Jeopardy," Watson took the form of this massive system, here Chef Watson is on a laptop. First, Florian decides on a key ingredient: tomato. Then, a cuisine: Filipino. Next, Florian decides he wants Chef Watson to come up with a salad. He then customizes it. When he's done, Chef Watson goes to work.

Watson comes up with some original recipes with the help of flavor compound algorithms, or how well the ingredients work together.

Chef Briscione says they have come up with some amazing combinations and dishes that they never would have thought made sense. They have data on how surprising or unique a dish is and how well it tastes.

And this technology is not just for skilled chefs. Soon, Chef Watson could be helping you in your own kitchen.

Stacey Rivera is the digital director for Bon Appetit. The company is testing a web app called Chef Watson with Bon Appetit. It analyzes the roughly 9,000 recipes in the Bon Appetit database to come up with new and exciting combinations. The app is still in its beta version, but should be available by the end of the year.

And while Chef Watson may be the future of how recipes are created, everyone seems to agree that technology can't do everything.

As for the Filipino tomato salad? Chef Watson can rest easy. The dish, like so many others, is a big hit.

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