11.11.2015: Chef Watson / RoundTable

News and ideas at the intersection of chefs and restaurants + digital and social technology


Cooking with IBM’s Watson to Reduce Food Waste

For all of the ways that technology has changed the food and restaurant space, those that dramatically improve the status quo are especially exciting. The recent focus on food waste is especially exciting, given Americans waste something like 40 percent of our food. IBM’s Chef Watson computer (the same one that took down Jeopardy celebrity Ken Jennings) is a Bon Appetit partner, with access to over 10,000 recipes. Watson is smart enough to understand what ingredients go well together and how to use seemingly random foods to create amazing meals, allowing you, the consumer, to effectively construct a meal out of whatever it is you happen to have on hand. There’s a good video on the BA site explaining how it works.

On a broader level, though, tech tools like Watson are able to condition us as home cooks. Thanks to recipe databases and fast searches and easily accessible how-tos, technology is effectively re-teaching us how to make dinner. I don’t know about you, but until recently I’ve been a little too beholden to the cookbook, buying ingredients for a particular recipe but not necessarily translating the leftovers into anything viable. (I’m having a lot of food waste guilt right now, to be honest). I know savvy home cooks do this every day — but a lot of us are still learning. And I’m excited that with tools like this one, how we cook and eat at home can have a broader impact on the health of our country and our world.

Try Watson yourself at ibmchefwatson.com. It’s awesome.



RoundTable Gives Restaurant Recommendations from Experts Only

Yelp is too cluttered and the New York Times is too old (or something). So, something in-between: a new restaurant recommendations site, called RoundTable (I can’t not think about the pizza chain here) is offering recommendations from approved experts only. Currently, RoundTable is New York City-focused, but according to a recent FWX piece, plans to expand soon. The piece also has a good and very Q&A with RoundTable’s CEO about the current state of the restaurant recommendations and reviews industry and how he believes his company will change the game.



On Its First Birthday, Reserve Shares Dining Data

A little late to the celebration here (sorry, Reserve! Happy birthday!), but for the one-year anniversary ofits official launch, “dining concierge” app Reserve is sharing some of the insights they’ve pulled from their data — things like tip percentage (with Reserve, the average tip is 20.58 percent, which is slightly more than the national average of 19.3 percent); city-specific data (Chicago has the biggest tippers; New York makes reservations the farthest ahead); and Reserve-specific information (seven days ahead of the dining date is the optimal time to schedule). They also share the average check amount from city to city, which I find quite interesting (New York is the highest).

I get pretty excited when I see this kind of shared data across restaurants, because it doesn’t happen that frequently. OpenTable shares good data from time to time, but given Reserve’s involvement with all parts of the dining experience — not just the reservation — its data spans the full experience. I’m excited to see more of it.



Woman on Yelp Tests Water Quality at Every Restaurant She Reviews

So, Yelp hasn’t veered into ridiculous territory, you say? Check this out: a California woman tests the water quality of every restaurant she visits and includes it in her Yelp reviews. For serious. I suppose if distilled water is important to you somehow, this is beneficial. But for the rest of us, this is a bit… much. No?



…to Epicurious, for its well-thought and incredibly useful Thanksgiving package, which answers questions I didn’t even know I had. This is better than a turkey hotline (or turkey Twitter account, as I’m sure there’s one of those.)



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