Entries in Taste Buds (2)


New Computers Aim to Tackle Taste Buds

IBM(NEW YORK) -- The future of food might not be in the kitchen.  Thanks to research at IBM, the future of food could very well be controlled by your computer.

“In five years, computers will be able to construct never-before-heard-of recipes to delight palates -- even those with health or dietary constraints -- using foods’ molecular structure,” says Dr. Lav Varshney, a research scientist for IBM, in a new video for the company’s annual 5 in 5 campaign. 

This year’s campaign focuses on the five senses and a new era of computers based on cognitive systems.

Varshney chose to work with food because, “It’s so visceral, it’s part of who we are.  Everyone eats."

He and his six-person team, which includes a chef-turned-computer engineer, are working to design recipes that predict unexpected flavor combinations that taste delicious.

The goal of the program is to “design food that tastes good that is flavorful but is also healthy,” he said.  “We’ve been using some ideas from culinary science and chemistry as well as psychology.”

The system looks to foods, such as strawberries, white wine or cooked apples, that are generally perceived as pleasant.

They use the flavor-pairing hypothesis to match flavors like black tea and bell peppers.  The hypothesis is the idea that “in two ingredients that share a lot of flavor compounds, chemicals that make up the food, they typically go together in western cuisine.”

They hope to create more flavorful lunch meals for kids who generally skip their sandwich and opt for dessert.

“Various governments have imposed a lot of nutritional standards, school lunches have to meet these very stringent requirements and kids end up throwing away the food,” said Varshney.

It would also improve food options in hospitals and nursing homes as well as provide tasty recipes for those with food restrictions like food allergies.

But the system isn’t as simple as an app that would select random combinations.  The team is also taking into consideration how the food looks.  Creating recipes that have never been made before has required a bit of testing.

Varshney hopes that the machine will eventually be “Good enough that you can predict without testing.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Miracle Food: Can World Hunger Be Solved By Tricking Taste Buds?

JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Homaro Cantu's world is part kitchen, part laboratory. The Chicago chef is more mad scientist than traditional culinary artist, and he's attempting to not just create delicious meals, but to challenge the very definition of food as he toys with its flavors.

"Our goal is to expand our dictionary of what food is," Cantu told ABC News.

Cantu is ringmaster at one of the Windy City's most sought-after restaurants, Moto, a place where even the menu is edible. Take a bite, after you order, and the edible paper on a cracker tastes like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"People pay a premium for Moto Restaurant because it's food that they're never going to see anywhere else," said Cantu.

Watch Homaro Cantu's TED Talk.

In Cantu's kitchen nothing is at it seems. What appear to be nachos -- chips, sour cream and ground beef -- will surprise even the most discerning of foodies.

"We basically just take the chocolate and put it in a blender and it turns into ground beef," Cantu explained. "The chips are made from corn chips, the cheese is made from Mexican sweet potatoes, and the green chile salsa is actually Mexican kiwi with some strawberry and some Mexican flan."

Last March, on the TED stage, Cantu wowed the audience by literally turning lemons into lemonade with a little pill made from a wild berry grown in West Africa. It's nicknamed the miracle berry and has a mysterious protein that temporarily inhibits the taste of sour and bitter things.

After taking the pill, members of the audience were able to bite directly into a lemon and have it taste exactly like lemonade.

Cantu believes the world can be changed through the science of taste. One of his dishes uses ingredients that are readily available for free.

"We basically take some grass and fry it. And bam, you've got yourself a dish that could actually be procured from your backyard depending on where you live," he said. "Agriculture as we know it could really be changed just by tricking our tongues."

The hope is that one day the science of taste could give starving nations something good to eat or make junk food healthy.

"So it this trendy establishment and those trends hopefully tickle down into a bigger audience," Cantu told ABC News. "We can rework it a little to make it like our junk food....If it looks good and makes you hungry, why not?"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio