Watson the Spanish chef

by on February 28, 2013 at 7:14 am in Food and Drink, Science | Permalink

In San Jose, I.B.M. plans to serve the assembled analysts a breakfast pastry devised by Watson, called a “Spanish crescent.” It is a collaboration of Watson’s software and James Briscione, a chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan.

I.B.M. researchers have watched and talked to Mr. Briscione as he works, selecting ingredients and building out dishes. Watson has read those notes, 20,000 recipes, data on the chemistry of food ingredients, and measured ratings of flavors people like in categories like “olfactory pleasantness.”

Watson’s assignment has been to come up with recipes that are both novel and taste good. In the case of the breakfast pastry, Watson was told to come up with something inspired by Spanish cuisine, but unusual and healthy. The computer-ordered ingredients include cocoa, saffron, black pepper, almonds and honey — but no butter, Watson’s apparent nod to healthier eating.

Then, Mr. Briscione, working with those ingredients, had to adjust portions and make the pastry.

“If I could have used butter, it would have been a lot easier,” said the chef, who used vegetable oil instead.

Michael Karasick, director of I.B.M.’s Almaden lab, had one of the Spanish crescents for breakfast recently. “Pretty good” was his scientific judgment.

There is more here, including Watson on drug discovery (not just diagnosis) and Watson on complex data analytics.  Fascinating throughout.

1 Jayson Virissimo February 28, 2013 at 7:23 am

I want to see Watson’s argument for vegetable oil being healthier than butter.

2 Brian Moore February 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

Agreed. Garbage data in, garbage out.

3 Rahul February 28, 2013 at 9:07 am

“Some guidelines for even healthier cooking are: Use olive or canola oil instead of butter or margarine.”

Ref. NIH-MedlinePlus

4 Brian Moore February 28, 2013 at 9:27 am

Like I said, garbage data.

5 prior_approval February 28, 2013 at 10:07 am

So, a Spanish recipe wouldn’t use olive oil?

This is as amusingly misplaced as the people that attempted to argue in this comments section that the TGV was empty.

And do check into the Spanish recipe for tortillas – Mexico is not Spain.

6 john personna February 28, 2013 at 10:37 am

A Spanish tortilla is good … but it’s one of those things that starts to smell maddeningly good long before it is done. Be patient.

7 dead serious February 28, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Tortilla, like everything, starts to smell good the moment the onions hit the hot oil.

8 Rahul February 28, 2013 at 2:40 pm


Most anything smells good when it hits hot oil…..

9 prior_approval February 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

Maybe olive oil was used?

10 Crocodile Chuck February 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm
11 Nate February 28, 2013 at 7:49 am

Yea, that’s pretty sad.

12 Andrew' February 28, 2013 at 7:49 am

So, Watson has already given up on his ambitions?

13 Brian Donohue February 28, 2013 at 8:59 am

The Sandwich Maker!

14 MotorBoatingSOB February 28, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Ahem. That’s sandwich artist.

15 BTD February 28, 2013 at 8:43 am

Couple Watson with Momentum Machines and you have a full chef and kitchen staff all automated.

16 bob February 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

Saffron from breakfast is Spanish in the same way that miso for breakfast is tex-mex.

17 prior_approval February 28, 2013 at 10:24 am

Yeah, Watson attempting to do cross-over cuisine is not exactly a strength.

On the other hand, IBM is the free market’s equivalent of a 3 letter agency. What this means is another question, but never bet against IBM when it comes to finding profit. And I’m fairly certain that Watson as such is thoroughly under IBM’s control, to an extent that google and Microsoft only dream of.

18 Widmerpool February 28, 2013 at 10:23 am

Everything is better with chorizo.

19 RR February 28, 2013 at 10:53 am

Alimentary, my dear Watson!

20 Brian Donohue February 28, 2013 at 11:50 am


21 Andrew' February 28, 2013 at 11:35 am

I was wondering where Watson would land after he ordered himself out of the lab in that pizza box. Maybe he’ll be like one of those traveling celebrity chefs. I wonder if he is a jerk to all his sous chefs.

22 Ray Lopez February 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Watson has shrunk to the size of a pizza box but GIGO ensures that junk food will be produced unless Watson butters up his fans. +IBM is a publicity hound–when they beat Kasparov in Chess with Deeper Blue they dismantled the project. I’m not a winer–no sour grapes here.

23 Mark Thorson February 28, 2013 at 2:10 pm

How would Watson do as editor of an economics journal? It should do great on analyzing data sets to see if the data matched up with the conclusions. However, I suspect that there would be ways to game Watson. How would it fare against another Watson, an evil Watson tasked to getting published by the good Watson?

24 might as well quit February 28, 2013 at 4:28 pm

The singularity approacheth.

25 Urso February 28, 2013 at 5:33 pm

So we finally invented a computer that can calculate pie.

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