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IBM's Chef Watson recipe book lets you cook like a computer

IBM's Watson isn't just serious about crunching numbers, it's also serious about crunching food.

Chef Watson's paella
IBM's Watson dreamed up this Indian Turmeric Paella dish. IBM

For anybody concerned about computers outpacing humans, IBM's Watson makes an intriguing case for superiority. Watson can already kick human butt at "Jeopardy." Now, it's impressing us with creative food combinations. Chef Watson, a food-focused offshoot project for the cognitive computing system, is coming out with its very own cookbook next week. The title is a mouthful: "Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson: Recipes for Innovation from IBM & the Institute of Culinary Education."

"Cognitive Cooking" contains 65 original recipes generated from Watson's computer brain. "The collection of recipes was crafted based on the system's understanding of flavor compounds, food pairing theories and the psychology of people's likes and dislikes," IBM says. Chef Watson's mind is full of thousands of recipes, ingredients, pleasing pairings and data about the chemical composition of food.

Chef Watson's specialty is dreaming up unusual combinations. As a computer, Watson doesn't have knee-jerk emotional roadblocks like "No way those flavors would work together!" or "It would be crazy to combine Turkish and Korean cuisine within a Caesar salad." It traffics in data and possibilities, but the end result is as creative as anything an eccentric human chef could dream up.

The cookbook includes recipes for Turkish Bruschetta (with eggplant, sumac and Parmesan cheese); Indian Turmeric Paella; and Swiss-Thai Asparagus Quiche. This shows Watson's willingness to combine international cuisines.

Watson still needs people to bring its culinary visions to life. Chef Watson may spit out the ideas, but human chefs from the Institute of Culinary Education tested and refined the recipes. It would be interesting to see which concepts didn't make the cut.

"Cognitive Cooking" will be released in hardcover on April 14.

Update, April 13 at 9:20 a.m. PT: This story has been updated to clarify Watson's status as a cognitive computing system, rather than a supercomputer.

Chef Watson's "Cognitive Cooking"
You, too, can cook like a computer. IBM/Institute of Culinary Education
Chef Watson's "Cognitive Cooking"
You, too, can cook like a supercomputer. IBM/Institute of Culinary Education