At SXSW Interactive this week, everyone was vying for attention. Everywhere you turned there was someone doing a demonstration with a 3-D printer or posing for a photo with Grumpy Cat. We didn’t get to hang with Grumpy Cat. But…
We did visit with a Southern-born chef who is working to fine tune supercomputer technology to create recipes based on your favorite tastes, ingredients, and regionality. That’s right, the computer helps formulate the recipe. Chef James Briscione is among the chefs who make these creations happen.
James, a Pensacola native who spent six years working alongside Frank Stitt (and was a champion on the show “Chopped”), is now the Director of Culinary Development at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education. The Institute has partnered with IBM to explore the question: can a computer be creative? And more specifically, can a computer create (not just regurgitate) recipes that actually work?
Here’s how it functions: using IBM’s supercomputer Watson (notorious for its win on “Jeopardy,”) a user answers simple questions, like “What’s one ingredient you love?” “What part of the world should be reflected in this dish?” Upon analyzing this information, Watson then creates a list of ingredients. During this phase of the project, chefs then conceive a recipe. So instead of pulling from existing recipes, Watson helps generate new ones. Whoa.
The computer can’t do it all, of course. That’s where the Institute of Culinary Education chefs come in. Based on Watson’s generated ingredient lists, the chefs create the recipes. We were there to try the Austrian chocolate burrito, which was one of several dishes based on crowdsourcing during SXSW. And the thing is–it was quite good. (Other dishes included a Belgian Bacon Pudding, Caribbean Snapper Fish and Chips and Peruvian Potato Poutine.)
How will Watson’s culinary prowess be used by home cooks and restaurants? It’s yet to be seen. IBM unveiled its food truck at SXSW to gauge interest and to introduce the concept. They’ll continue to work with James and his colleagues to fine-tune the system, which could have any number of applications and implications. (Click here for more information on cognitive cooking,)
We’re intrigued. And hey, Watson: you’re welcome to hang out in our Test Kitchens any time.