IBM's Watson, the artificially intelligent supercomputer designed to be the perfect Jeopardy contestant, has moved on to a new career: one in the food industry.
As an intermediate step in the process of training Watson for pharmaceutical research, IBM has put the machine to work as a chef. A cookbook of Watson's original recipes, called "Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson: Recipes for Innovation from IBM & the Institute of Culinary Education" was released last fall. It includes such items as a burrito with hints of chocolate and edamame, a mixed drink made with IPA and veal stock, and garnished with a piece of grilled beef, and risotto stuffed with candied ginger.
Watson's unique approach to recipe-making comes from its ability to analyze food on a molecular level. The flavor compound g-dodecalactone, for instance, is found in both strawberries and chicken, as well as pork, and some mushrooms. Chef Watson operates on the idea that foods with the same flavor compounds go well together, and it can use that principle to come up with effective fusion dishes that would never really occur to a human chef.
In the words of Florian Pinel, the lead engineer for the project, "Chef Watson is going to suggest ingredients I'd never use and that's what's going to be surprising to me."
Chef Watson is currently available to the public in the form of a beta. Once a user gains access to the site, he or she can pick a couple key ingredients or a preferred style of food, and then let Watson do the rest. The site also includes a slider ranging from "keep it classic" to "surprise me" for more adventurous eaters.