A World With Less Food Waste

by: Rebecca Wissinger

We’ve all done it — thrown out unused ingredients or food when we’ve made too much, and meanwhile there are many people going hungry. Or we’ve eaten foods because they taste great but aren’t necessarily of any nutritional value, when there are healthier options that could replenish our bodies or even cure our ailments.

Is it possible to have the best tasting dishes in a wide variety, with limited waste, personally designed for our individual health needs? According to Senior Software Engineer Florian Pinel and IBM, it is.

The food of the future should be made with cognitive technology; with the tools and supplies that we already have to reduce waste. Chef Watson is the world’s first cognitive cooking application; it taps into big data to identify new recipes that will satisfy an individual’s taste and dietary needs. It uses a cognitive assessor to predict the quality and pleasantness of the ingredient combinations (looking at ingredients on a molecular level) and a dynamic planner to generate proportions and instructions. Examining ingredients at this level enables Watson to produce recipes that can help prevent and fight diseases like heart disease or diabetes, and in a variety of exciting, delicious dishes.

Consider the dilemma of a parent cooking for a family that includes a diabetic and a number of food allergies like tree nuts or gluten. Chef Watson has the ability to draw from quintillions of combinations of ingredients, compare them to specified tastes and fathom up an endless variety of recipes for that parent to choose from. Cooks can create their own personalized recipes whenever they want! And by suggesting recipes that use what’s already available, Chef Watson is reducing food waste, whether it’s in a professional kitchen or at home.

The IBMer most closely associated with Chef Watson himself, Florian Pinel spoke at TED@IBM last fall. Florian helped me envision a world with less disease and waste, without sacrificing quality or health — a world with smarter packaging and repurposed food. I can’t wait to see what else Chef Watson can do.

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