IBM’s Supercomputer Chef Uses Science to Throw Together Wild, Unexpected Recipes
You would think that a pudding made of bacon, porcini and cumin, among other things, would probably be disgusting.
But you’d be wrong. Science says it’s delicious.
At least, that’s what Watson — IBM’s Jeopardy-winning supercomputer — has proved at the South by Southwest convention in Austin this week. The company’s cognitive computing group used the system to crunch through about 35,000 recipes sourced from Wikipedia and the Institute of Culinary Education to create an app that thinks up the most unusually delicious dishes based on molecular science.
The group spent two years orchestrating the project, which analyzed about 1,000 chemical flavor compounds to make educated predictions about which flavors pair together best and how surprising they might be. The result is something people have never tasted before. For example: custard with porcini-infused bacon, topped with raisins, figs, honey, sugar, orange and cumin — a culinary invention I consumed with sheer delight.
The food truck where recipes generated by IBM’s Cognitive Cooking project came to life at SXSW. Photo courtesy of IBM.
The system works like this:
First, you choose an ingredient for the recipe to be based on. It could be something you have lying around in the fridge that needs to be cooked before it goes bad or your absolute favorite food. For my run-through session with IBM, I chose artichokes (because they rule).
The system tells you which cuisines use artichokes the most. It turns out that Maltese, Italian, French and Israeli foods are most likely to contain my green friend. But I opted for a less-common Californian cuisine to honor my home state.