Chef Watson with Bon Appetit differs from a site like
Allrecipes.com, which gives users recipes from its database,
because it produces original recipe ideas -- though the app could
produce the same recipe twice if the user entered the same search
criteria again. The app's potential output will also grow as Bon
Appetit feeds it more recipes.
Editors at Bon Appetit shaped a handful of Chef Watson's
suggestions into Fourth of July recipes, which the staff tested and
are slated to be published on Bonappetit.com. Pamela Drucker Mann,
Bon Appetit's publisher, said there are no immediate plans to sell
advertising in the app.
Bon Appetit, which
Ad Age named Magazine of the Year in 2013, is struggling this
year to duplicate the 22% increase in print ad pages it posted last
year. Through July, Bon Appetit's ad pages have declined 12%
compared with the equivalent period last year, according to the
Media Industry Newsletter.
Its paid and verified circulation of 1.5 million during the last
six months of 2013 is up slightly from the same period in 2012,
according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
The partnership between IBM and Bon Appetit took root after the
magazine's online editor, Matt Gross, reached out to IBM. The
company had piqued his interest when Watson teamed up with the
Institute of Culinary Education for a food truck at this year's
South By Southwest Festival.
"The idea for the app was to build a system that would inspire
people to find new ingredients and flavor combinations," said Steve
Abrams, director of IBM Watson Group. "Once we made the decision to
turn it into something we would deliver to home chefs, Bon Appetit
was the best partner imaginable."
Chef Watson with Bon Appetit doesn't signal a shift into IBM
apps aimed at general consumers. Instead, it's meant to drum up
potential business by demonstrating real-world applications of
Watson, "cognitive systems" that are a key area of growth for the
"When we talk about cognitive systems, they can be rather
abstract concepts," Mr. Abrams said. "But when I can hand someone a
dish they've never seen before, it might make it easier to see
what's happening with Watson."
In January, IBM said it was investing $1 billion to create a
business unit that finds and sells business applications for
Watson. Financial institutions, health insurers and hospitals are
using Watson, according to Mr. Abrams. Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer
Center, for instance, are using Watson to recommend cancer
treatments. Some in the food industry have spoken with IBM about
tapping Watson to create new products, he added.
IBM has recorded eight straight quarters of declining
year-over-year revenue. In the first quarter of 2014, it reported
$22.5 billion in revenue, a 4% decline from the quarter a year
earlier. Earnings fell 21% to nearly $2.4 billion.
Chef Watson with Bon Appetit could become a regular tool among
professional and amateur chefs alike, according to Mr. Abrams.
"Chefs are thrilled by the way it forces them to use new muscles
and think differently about the way they use recipes," he said.
That doesn't mean losing the human element, Mr. Rapoport said.
"These are creative suggestions, but it's up to the cook to cook
it," he said.