How Chef Watson calculates deliciousness?

From the beginning of my Chef Watson Project, I wanted to know how Chef Watson learns every attribute of all the ingredients and how he knows that various combinations will taste good. This was because I had a lot of questions when I tried finding recipes using Chef Watson.

I sometimes felt that Watson just changed ingredients from the original Bon Apetit recipes because the combination of ingredients suggested by Watson was so unfamiliar and there were many mistakes in the recipes.

Then I found an explanation of James Briscione who works as an advisor chef with Chef Watson, how humans detect the delicious factor from a blog post introducing this TED talk in Warsaw.

Usually when we’re talking about how something tastes is its flavor. And flavor doesn’t come from you tongue. It comes from your nose(about 80%). Now you say you take a bite of cake, as the cake sits on your tongue and you begin to chew it, the tiny molecules called volatile compounds and aromatic compounds are being released. They find the way up from the back of your throat into your nose. Your nose now sort out the aromatic compounds and knows “Well, actually this is chocolate cake and there are a bit of hazelnuts and cherry filling..and this is quite delicious”

We can find the information of what molecules exist in all of our favorite foods researched by scientists. And this is important information that there’s something incredible that we can do with this. We can use this information to predict how different foods are going to taste whe we put them together.

4-Methylpentanoic acid looks like your average molecule but when we look into the ingredients that share this compound we find things like tomatoes and cheeses, baked sweets, right, it’s pizza. Now we have scientific proof that pizza is in fact, delicious. So we can use this science to share flavor compounds not only to help us to understand why we love our favorite foods but you can also use it helped us find new combinations of ingredients.

This explanation makes sense. I can cast my blames for the failed recipes of Chef Watson to a computing error then :-p. Watson sees ingredients as a combination of volatile and aromatic compounds. Then he calculates the harmonization of molecules included in the ingredients in the fridge and suggests the best combination. That’s why I sometimes felt shocked by the creativeness in choosing a combination of ingredients which didn’t look so tasty.

For example, James takes this dish as an example of Chef Watson’s creativeness that humans might not easily imagine :  Chicken and Mushroom Burger with Strawberry Ketchup. Chicken and mushrooms share same aromatic compound(Gama…something! I could not understand the exact chemical name, if anyone knows the exact name, please correct me.) Surprisingly that compound is also included in the strawberries, too. James confidently touted that once you try this burger, you’ll never miss a beef burger. Well… let me see. I’ll try this recipe and I’ll let you know if he’s right.

Chicken and mushroom burger with strawberry ketchup

I hope Chef Watson can help solve problems in the food industry as clarified by James in this video. As we learn how to cook by a number of experiments and recipes made by history, maybe if Chef Watson does well the time will come when anyone can cook.



For those whom it may concern, I’m not related to IBM or Chef Watson. It is my personal interest to test how artificial intelligence decodes the way chefs create recipes and I want to see if this service can be offered to everyone in the near future.


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