At last year’s South by Southwest conference, Watson, the IBM supercomputer most famous for embarrassing the greatest Jeopardy! champions of all time, used its sizable analysis capabilities to venture into the food world with a number of interesting creations. IBM has now compiled the best Watson recipes into the computing giant’s first cookbook, Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson.
Some of Watson’s ideas fit nicely in the current culinary landscape—the computer’s take on Turkish bruschetta with eggplant puree doesn’t venture too far outside the box. But many of the recipes include flavor combinations you likely never thought to use before. The Vietnamese Apple Kebab, for example, pairs strawberries and mushroom. For those of us who don’t assess our ingredients at the chemical level, we probably never put those two together; but Watson found they share a number of compounds, and according to the director of the Watson program, they actually go quite well together.
The process for creating the recipes did utilize more than zeroes and ones. Since Watson can’t actually prepare and taste the dishes, they required humans to bring them to life. A team of chefs from the Institute of Culinary Education, including the former pastry chef from Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin, honed Watson’s unorthodox ingredient lists into recipes ready for public consumption. But even if Watson still needs a helping hand from us simple humans at this early stage in its cooking career, the new book will help us think about ingredients in ways never imagined before.
For anyone interested in discovering the magic of mushrooms and strawberries together or learning how to make Thai-Jewish Chicken, Cognitive Cooking goes on sale April 14.