SXSW Foodie Explorer: Watson Cooks

March 10, 2014
by Megan Giller

Austinites love to explore, almost as much as they love to eat. Usually in this column we uncover under-the-radar eateries and places that you wouldn’t otherwise know existed, but today it’s all about the good food going on at SXSW that you might otherwise miss. Destination: IBM’s Cognitive Cooking trailer, powered by Jeopardy's Watson (Fourth and Red River, 11 AM-4 PM through Tuesday, March 11).

What It Is: IBM partnered with the Institute of Culinary Education to invent a new way of making recipes. ICE inputs its database of thousands of recipes into Watson, the AI machine that won Jeopardy. Watson then learned what, for example, makes a taco a taco, and generates lists of ingredients that it thinks will go well together, based on what the chef wants to cook. The chef then uses that list of sometimes unlikely pairings to create a new dish. At the trailer you’ll find big-name chefs like Michael Laiskonis (Le Bernardin), who is making today’s dish.

You’ll spend: Nothing. This is SXSW, after all. Better yet, no badges are required, because this is open to the public.

You’ll be comfortable in: A sweatshirt and possibly a rain jacket, since it’s outside.

Don’t be intimidated by: The line: It moves quickly.

Today’s dish: Chef Laiskonis wanted to make a pudding with sweet and savory elements for today’s dreary day. The computer generated a list with ingredients like mushrooms, black pepper, cumin, fig, bacon, raisins, egg and buttermilk. And voila, he created Belgian bacon pudding. Laiskonis told us, “Because we have certain pre-conceived notions of what ‘pudding’ is, I like the idea of spinning slightly savory with this dish. Here the intent is to provide a decidedly sweet flavor profile that is accented with smoky and umami notes of the bacon and mushroom, balanced with the acidity of buttermilk. Textural contrast will appear in the form of the dried fruits and an olive oil-walnut financier. The hope is to provide both ‘comfort’ and ‘surprise’ in each bite." Here’s a video to learn more.

After you go: Vote for tomorrow’s dish asap

food truck
michael laiskonis