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jacobrobinson
12th March 2023

AI generated recipes and meal plans: Are they worth the hype?

Could new Artificial Intelligence softwares put human chefs and nutritionists out of a job?
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AI generated recipes and meal plans: Are they worth the hype?
Photo: Ella Olsson @ Pexels

AI has taken over the world. Well, not exactly. With the rise of ChatGPT, an AI chatbot which seemingly can do anything from writing love letters to creating computer code, AI is on everyone’s minds.

2014 predictions from the Pew Research Centre estimated that the vast majority of daily life would be dominated by robotics and artificial intelligence by 2025. Whilst it doesn’t appear as if this dystopian future has materialised fully for the time being, it does seem that many have adopted AI as a force for good, rather than a threat.

In fact, AI technology is beginning to find its way into the food industry. It can assist restaurants and companies with inventory management, demand forecasting, automated production and more. But don’t think this is wholly inaccessible to me and you. This technology is also available to use at home in our everyday lives. Introducing: Let’s Foodie, ChefGPT, and ChatGPT.

With an estimated 11% of household food going to waste globally, this innovative technology can reduce food waste by helping users to create delicious meals out of leftover ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away. Think about the number of times a lonely vegetable or piece of meat has ended up in the back of your fridge, left to rot, the victim of a lack of recipe imagination.

To solve this problem, Let’s Foodie has recently launched a free recipe generator. This generator uses AI technology to assist users in planning, preparing, and plating delicious meals using the ingredients in their cupboards.

The tool prompts users to input a list of the ingredients and quantities available to them. Let’s Foodie’s algorithms — trained on vast amounts of recipe data — use this information to create a suitable meal, complete with easy-to-follow instructions detailing how best to prepare, cook, and serve the recommended dish.

ChefGPT acts in a similar capacity, advertised as “your new personal chef.” In the free version, the ‘PantryChef’ mode not only asks for ingredients, but the amount of time available, kitchen tools you have to hand in, and the skill level of the chef.

Its paid version includes a multitude of additional features. The ‘MacrosChef’ feature generates recipes based on specific nutritional goals and dietary restrictions, whilst ‘PairPerfect’ suggests wine or beer recommendations for any meal. According to their website, 33,000 meals have already been created using the service.

ChatGPT can also be used for similar purposes. Whilst it can assist users in finding and creating recipes, it is more helpful for generating meal plans. These can be based on personal taste preferences, dietary requirements, and budget. ChatGPT performs best when provided with as much detail as possible, so if you’re looking for something in a more general sense it might not do so well.

But, can these tools really serve an innovative role in our everyday lives? The answer: don’t get your hopes up too much.

Let’s Foodie, whilst a promising idea in concept, fails in practical execution.

The recipes generated are at best random. It’s more generous to describe what it executes as a plate of ingredients, rather than a completed dish. Despite being provided with a full cupboard and fridge of ingredients, the tool struggles to cope with this overload of information. The website doesn’t seem to work quickly either, that is if it works at all.

ChatGPT has similar flaws when generating meal plans. When asking the tool to create a “vegetarian meal plan,” it returns a range of delicious and nutritional meals. Think stir fry, curry, or sushi – it can definitely satisfy an empty stomach. Nonetheless, there’s no focus on practicalities, like best-before dates or reusing similar ingredients. Even when asked to do so, it doesn’t seem to respond well to this request.

ChefGPT is arguably the most advanced of the three services. Recipes generated include the estimated total calories as well as carbs, proteins, and fats. Nonetheless, like Let’s Foodie, the service responds badly to even the simplest list of ingredients. Who makes chilli by cooking rice in the oven?

While AI can generate recipes based on a set of guidelines and parameters, it lacks the ability to incorporate the creativity and intuition that human chefs bring to the table. AI does not follow up inquiries or ask additional questions – it’s not as personalised as you’d think. It’s clear it cannot replace the work of chefs and nutritionists.

Let’s not scrap cookbooks and imagination just yet.

Check out our articles on recipes!

Jacob Robinson

Jacob Robinson

Head Investigations Editor & MMG News Producer 2023-24 | Former Head of Talk Shows and Deputy Head of Podcasting at Fuse FM 2022-23

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