A robot in the kitchen | The press

Take electronics giant Sony. Add François Chartier, gastronomy and touches of artificial intelligence (AI). You get a “crazy thing,” according to the Quebec sommelier and creator of aromatic harmonies. Since 2018 he has been working on an artificial intelligence that cooks can use to improve and create new culinary combinations.

Posted at 8:00 am

Karim Benessaieh

Karim Benessaieh
The press

Mr. Chartier, who has lived in Barcelona for six years and will be returning to Quebec this month for the first time in three years, will introduce Sony AI Gastronomy at E-AI’s launch event next Tuesday at 12pm.

This amazing project, involving more than 400 Sony employees and for which François Chartier has been appointed Special Advisor, is being prepared with little publicity. It was still in its infancy and recently entered a second phase where a user-friendly application can be presented. “It’s Sony: when they’re ready, they push the media machine,” explains Mr. Chartier. I think the chefs will be on board. »

Flavors, seasons and colors

Basically, a chance meeting between Sony officials looking to invest in artificial intelligence projects and the Barcelona-based Quebec sommelier happened in 2017. “My specialty is not AI, but flavors,” he explains. We don’t know much about it, but Sony had already made its mark in the hospitality industry: they were chef Joël Robuchon’s agents for 25 years. »


François Chartier, sommelier, author and special advisor to the Sony AI Gastronomy project

What they’re saying is that they’re basically there to help artists, in music, in movies, in video games. And the cooks, the restaurateurs, they are artists.

Francois Chartier

One thing led to another and we decided to integrate all the aromatic science of molecular harmonies developed in the books of François Chartier into one gigantic database. The project will be presented at the first-ever International Scientific and Culinary Congress held in 2019 in Barcelona, ​​​​”this city that has become the capital of gastronomy thanks to the creativity of its chefs”. He will also conduct a series of videoconference interviews with key players and involve them in testing this new opportunity.

In addition to the molecular harmonies, the database has been enriched with millions of other pieces of information, specifies Mr. Chartier. “It’s even bigger: we include geolocation, season, colors, texture, new techniques, styles, from Bocuse to your grandmother via the local bistro. »

Post Pandemic

This AI, he summarizes, is “like a sub-boss, but at a high level, capable of ‘challenging’ the creator”. A few examples: She is asked to prepare a dish using soy sauce and she suggests chocolate. “The chef changes his mind and wants to work with chocolate, he wants crunch. There is a dialogue. »

Who other than François Chartier and his AI knew that nori seaweed and raspberry share the same aromatic molecules? “However, there is no recipe that combines both. If we add them together, 1 + 1 = 3! »

The AI ​​will not replace the chef, he specifies, but above all serve to inspire him to propose new paths that he can choose to follow or avoid. He believes that it comes at the right time when two years of pandemic have weakened this field, which he was able to observe further in twenty interviews zoom with top chefs – and by the way, two wine and sake producers.

“We wanted to capture that moment of fragility they were in at the time to see how new technologies could help them be more creative and get out of the doldrums. »

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