The newest cookbook on the market was compiled by a chef who “has never tasted a single morsel of food”, the book’s introduction points out. “This culinary prodigy, in fact, has no taste buds, no nose, not any sensual experience of food or drink.”
This could be the world’s first collection of recipes created by artificial intelligence.
Watson, IBM’s supercomputer that famously defeated two human grand champions to win the US quiz show Jeopardy, has turned its attention to the kitchen.
For several years, the virtual chef has been poring over troves of recipes and food-related data, from classic meal combinations to research on flavour preferences and the chemical composition of foods.
The cognitive computer was programmed to produce ideas for food combinations that would taste pleasant at a molecular level and that, crucially, had not yet been tried.
The surprising results include the Spanish Almond Crescent, a butterless and sugar-free pastry flavoured with pepper, saffron and coconut milk; asparagus grilled with pig’s feet croquettes and mustard foam; an apple and pork kebab cooked with mushrooms, strawberries and curry powder; ale brewed with veal stock; plum pancetta cider; and a bacon dessert made from porcini mushrooms, walnut meal and dried figs.
IBM said it wanted to apply its innovation to “a field that every human being appreciates: food”.
Steve Abrams, the head of IBM’s Watson research centre in New York, said in September that the cookbook could help humans who not in the scientific community understand the “rather abstract” concept of the cognitive machine, making it “easier to explain to people the power of computational creativity”.
The book’s introduction spells out how similar systems could help people tailor foods to their medical and financial needs, allow schools and hospitals to create tastier and more nutritious meals, and revolutionise industries from pharmaceuticals and chemicals to media and the arts.
“This cookbook shows not only how far Watson has come, but also the incredible, untapped potential of further collaborations between man and machine.”
Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson: Recipes for Innovation from IBM & the Institute of Culinary Education contains 65 recipes and is available in hardcover from April 14.