Lately, I have read a lot about IBM’s Chef Watson and became intrigued. Artificial intelligence has always fascinated me and I have been waiting to be fooled by the Turing test. Even though I have yet to be fooled into thinking a computer is a fellow human, I decided to give Chef Watson a try as, surely, creating recipes should be much easier!
In order to remove any bias from my normal cooking habits (checkout Instagram for some of my home cooking!), I decided to use twitter to crowd source ingredients to plug into Chef Watson. The rules were simple, I would only use ingredients people submitted and Watson suggestions. From the list of submission I categorized each item as a protein, carb, starch, etc. then randomly selected one item from each category. It came as a shock no one submitted a protein, so I had to rely upon Watson for the protein (that was a little scary). The ingredients that were crowd sourced and randomly selected were as follows:
I love rice but have never had Wehani Rice, so I was excited to give it a try. Unfortunately, Watson had never heard of it so I substituted Jasmine for it. I thought this was surprising that an item easily found through Wikipedia was not available. The same was true for both Tiger Nuts and Dragon Fruit! Because of this, I would have to rely on Watson for everything besides Pimentos, Pesto, and Orange Juice. As I continued through the process, I thought to myself, “this is starting to get a little more scary.”
Interacting with Watson is really easy; I created a log on and was presented with a very simple interface that has a few boxes for ingredients. After entering the first ingredient, recommendations for other items to include populated and possible recipe options appeared. As I entered in more ingredients, the options were further narrowed down. When I finished entering each of my ingredients, I had a list of 4 recipes to pick from with pretty generic names: Jasmine Rice Poultry Dish, Jasmine Rice Seared, Jasmine Rice Stuffing, and Jasmine Rice Grilled Salmon. I vetoed the seared rice and the stuffing, as they were not complete meals. Since chicken seemed too easy, I went with the Salmon.
The recipe was supposed to be one serving, but I increased the amount of salmon to 3 servings, in order to feed my parents who were willing victims of this experiment. I headed to Whole Foods to source the ingredients for the meal. I purchased as close to the quantities that the recipe called for without going under, again, only modifying the salmon. The bill came to $75.12, I checked out and headed home to cook!
(Note: besides the salmon the other ingredients were meant to serve one person)
- Cereal Crop: 4 cups Jasmine Rice
- Condiment: 1 1/2 oz pesto
- Fish/Seafood: 5 oz salmon
- Fruit: 2 chopped, peeled bananas
- Fruit Juice: 1/4 cup orange juice
- Oil Fat: 1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Seasoning/Spice: 3/4 tsp paprika, 3/4 tsp turmeric
- Spicy Vegetable: 1 tsp pimento
- Vegetable: 4 sliced plum tomatoes, 3 cups diced rhubarb
The first thing that quickly stood out was the 4 cups of rice. As I mentioned, I love rice, and can easily put down a cup of rice- but 4 cups is a crazy amount of rice. Other crazy quantities included the tomatoes, rhubarb, and bananas. Not sure who can eat 4 cups of rice, 4 tomatoes, 2 bananas and 2 cups of diced rhubarb in one sitting. IBM does put an asterisk on every recipe that states, “These quantities and steps are ideas, but Chef Watson really needs you to use your own creativity and judgement. Let us know how to make Chef smarter.” So while I did follow the directions and use the suggested quantities, I served 3 people with lots and lots of rice left over.
I did stray from the directions (see below) in just one aspect, which was the fish. I bought some beautiful King Salmon filets (on sale for $15 each) and there was no way I was going to chop them into small cuts, skewer them, and then dry them out on the BBQ. Instead, I left them in tact to make sure there was still some flavor left once they were cooked. Since Watson did tell me to use my own creativity, I didn’t feel too bad about cheating a little bit. All things considered, everything went together very well. I had my concerns about the bananas in the rice, but I pushed on and didn’t sample anything until the dish was plated and served.
First, let me start with the fish. Not killing the fish a second time was definitely the right decision as everyone loved it! The same cannot be said about the rice, which was universally disliked. The recipe called for the rice to be room temperature, with banana’s, pimentos, 2 different oils, and a lot of orange juice. If you think it sounds bad, you’re right. The rhubarb was a definite after thought that had no reason for being on the plate and tasted as such. The results did look decent enough, but again, due to the large portions, the plates each looked like a hungry-man microwave dinner.
Would I do it again? Yes and no. I would certainly not adhere to the recipe, as some of Watson’s suggestions simply didn’t make sense. But at the same time I probably would not have ever put the Salmon together with Paprika, turmeric, vegetable/sesame oil, and pimentos on my own. At the end of the day, if you are feeling adventurous and want to think outside of the box, go ahead and throw some ingredients at IBM’s super computer. Just head the warning and don’t follow Watson’s directions to the letter. Your friends and taste buds will thank you.