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IBM's Watson and Bon Appetit team up to create cutting-edge cuisine

The famous supercomputer and the culinary magazine join forces to develop a cooking app that spews out new and innovative recipes. Fennel-spiced baby back pork ribs, anyone?

A cook whips up Watson's recipe for barbequed ribs. Jessup Deane for Bon Appetit/IBM Research

It's officially summer and that means backyard barbecues with smoky hamburgers, corn, ribs, and more. While many people have special recipes or scour cookbooks and the web for tips, there's now one more resource they can look to: IBM's Watson supercomputer.

IBM announced Monday that it has partnered with Bon Appetit to create a recipe app called "Chef Watson with Bon Appetit," which combines Watson's data savvy with the culinary magazine's wealth of cooking knowledge.

For the app, Watson -- aka Big Blue of -- has culled, memorized, and learned roughly 9,000 Bon Appetit recipes that it can then regurgitate into creative and different combos. Some of these recipes bring new flavors, spices, and regional tastes that most likely haven't been thought up or created before.

And, what did Watson offer for summertime barbecued rib recipes? Fennel-spiced baby back pork with a tangy apple-mustard sauce. And, Watson suggested, why not throw in a side of tamarind-cabbage slaw with crispy onions and a blackberry-cherry cobbler with honey whipped cream for dessert?

Watson's recipes are not your run-of-the-mill combinations; they do, however, cater to tastes and flavors that people prefer. To come up with these creatively crafted cuisines, Watson uses Bon Appetit's insights about ingredient pairings, cooking styles, and dishes and then mixes that with food chemistry, the psychology of people's likes and dislikes, and regional and ethnic tastes. The idea is to help people discover new and flavorful recipes that are fine-tuned to make taste buds happy.

"These recipes were the result of Watson 'reading' thousands of recipes, and thereby coming to understand the deep connections between ingredients, not just in terms of how they're used in recipes but on a fundamental chemical level," Bon Appetit's web editor Matt Gross wrote in a blog post. "As Bon Appetit's test kitchen discovered when it used Chef Watson to develop Fourth of July recipes, these ingredient lists really were inspirational, prodding senior food editor Dawn Perry to use a random thing like flour in a way she'd never expected."

The idea of using Watson to create interesting and provocative recipes was first unveiled at SXSW in March. During the festival, IBM partnered with the Institute of Culinary Education to serve up one six-course meal for a select group of people, as well as create innovative daily recipes out of a food truck. Dishes included Czech pork belly moussaka, Kenyan Brussels sprouts seasoned with cardamom, and an Ecuadorian strawberry dessert with avocado oil.

Besides cuisine, Watson has also brought its supercomputing prowess to the financial services sector, retail companies, and health care organizations. Since the machine has the ability to comb through vast amounts of information to come up with answers and insights, it only makes sense that Watson would also be useful for cognitive computing -- even in creative fields, like cooking.

Currently, "Chef Watson with Bon Appetit" is sill in limited beta but users can sign up to get the app with Bon Appetit.

The "Chef Watson with Bon Appetit" app goes through a series of questions to help users find recipes. IBM Research