IBM’s supercomputer Watson, after obliterating chess and Jeopardy champions, is now taking on culinary experts.
The free Chef Watson app takes the user’s requested meal, style and ingredients, and concocts a recipe based on its knowledge of flavours that pair well.
Chef Watson had to undergo its own culinary training, called machine learning. It analysed 10,000 recipes on Bon Appetit and looked for ingredients that often appeared together, and substituted ingredients.
I’m an adventurous eater, but I don’t usually cook elaborate meals. So I wanted to try it for myself. To test Chef Watson, I followed the ingredients and steps as accurately as possible — but encountered a few surprises.
Scroll down to see how the experiment went.
After opening the app, I'm immediately already overwhelmed by choices. I look for a difficulty setting to simplify the process, but there's nothing. I'll search by style instead.
Hmm, a 'Labour Day' recipe categories. There I find the gem 'Labour Day Mayonnaise Meat Salad' with pineapple and mayonnaise. But I don't think I'd like that. Let's try Mexican?
I see I have more to worry about than just preparation time and difficulty, though -- I have to make sure what I make is edible. Moving on!
Finally! Something doable and appetizing: the Tex Mex Olive Taco. It's not super sophisticated, and includes something called a cornichon (which, after some searching, I learn is a type of pickle). But after 20 minutes of meat salad madness, I'll take it.
To the grocery store! I couldn't find any pickles specifically labelled cornichons, so I went for regular pickles. Everything else was easy to find.
Oof. I've already run into a problem in Chef Watson's first step and working around it. I'm supposed to char the tortillas directly on the gas stove, but the tortillas are too small to grill. I heat them in a pan instead.
Now I have to 'saute chorizo sausage...breaking up with back of spoon.' I try to mash the whole sausages into bits but don't want to risk having it fly out of the pan. Back to the cutting board.
I mix all the ingredients together. Though I've prematurely thrown in half of the cilantro, at this point I'm confident that this won't be a complete failure. The ingredients go well together, and it looks and smells appetizing.
This is not a nonstick pan. Of all my pans, this is probably the stickiest pan. My bad, Chef Watson.
The recipe only had 2 servings but since both my husband and I are starving, I decided to cook three tacos each (with adjusted quantities, of course).
I serve up and get ready to chow. The food looks and smells pretty good. But I'm starving by this point, so I suspect cat food would look amazing, too. I'm so hungry that I almost forget about the pickle and buttermilk toppings.
I chop up some regular pickles and drop it in the taco with a healthy smattering of buttermilk. Here goes nothing...
I pretty much inhale the first taco. By the second taco the novelty of the tangy pickles is gone. All in all, it wasn't a disastrous cooking experience, but I did spend 20 minutes looking for a recipe that I could eat and wouldn't take three hours to make. I'll try Chef Watson again. But for everyday meals, I'll stick to my quick-and-easy staple recipes.
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