Marc Powell’s food taxonomy

zsoulJust got to meet Marc Powell – the food hacker, molecular gastronomist and coder – who explained his work on a food taxonomy and delicious corpse, the menu version of the Surrealist exquisite corpse. He’s also got a food hacking wiki and NNDB – the notable names database/aggregator of relationships and facts about thousands of people, edited by 6 people he says.

The food taxonomy is a great idea. He showed off a tool that parses menus from restaurant websites into an XML stucture, with tags like course, dish, ingredient, garnish, sauce, wine pairing, price, etc. He accomplishes this using a machine readable taxonomy of ingredients like basil:is:herb:do:pesto. He includes properties like taste, texture, quality, climate, region, trigeminal effects (physical oral sensations such as coolness from menthol or heat from cinnamon or pepper). And he’s designed a back engine that learns and could potentially make recommendations. You could feed it a list of ingredients and it would know what to throw together to balance the dish and course in various dimensions. He also mentioned taking a bunch of ingredients and asking “what kind of dish would this restaurant make with these?” or “what kind of dishes would you get if you mixed these two restaurants?”

Other cool things about Marc:

  • He can make listerine strips from listerine.
  • He explained how to use a lab to make better beef stock: freeze-dry a control sample of beef stock and also stock with added ribose, fructose, glucose and other sugars. Then look on a mass spectrometer to see which sugars amplified the original peaks.

MAKE on Marc


One thought on “Marc Powell’s food taxonomy”

  1. hey this is Donna from chicago, I was in SF over july 4th for the JAKs co. I was trying to find you but you did not reply to my email, so I’m trying here.

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