We’ve all been there when we’ve put a pinch too much garam masala in a curry or overdone it a bit with the cayenne pepper. That’s why spice mixes can be a great way to cut out the guesswork, but what if humans were pushed out of the way altogether?
That’s right, one of the biggest producers of spice mixes on the market is turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to get the balance right. The result has been new inventions like Tuscan Chicken, Bourbon Pork Tenderloin and New Orleans Sausage.
The thing is that spice is a matter of taste and a big part of many people’s identities, so the idea of AI taking over is hard to swallow. But it doesn’t mean the end for anyone who likes playing around with potent flavours in their own kitchen; it’s about consistency in specific products.
While some spice blends have been handed down through generations, other home cooks are happy to accept that their curries will taste a little different every time. But it takes a long time to train a spice developer, which is where AI can help.
It took four whole years to crunch the numbers on 40 years worth of spicy data before machines could be let loose on our palettes. While some people are still skeptical, AI has the chance to step outside of manmade constraints and make groundbreaking suggestions.
Most people wouldn’t dream of putting cumin on a pizza, but a machine would and it’s surprisingly good. In a world where we’re all desperate for new and interesting flavours and products, machines have the power to innovate and deliver.
Dr Hamed Faridi, chief science officer at McCormick Spices, told the BBC: “A product, from the beginning to the end, can take somewhere between 50 to 150 iterations before it is ready for commercialisation.
“It takes an experienced product developer about 10 to 15 years to become highly trained in what they do, so it makes business sense to develop a system that means every person is as good as the best person we have.”
What all of us at home forget is that there are just so many different types of the same herbs and spices. Garlic doesn’t just come in fresh and dried varieties, as apparently there are around 50 options to choose from – who knew?!
Each one has a different flavour profile and granule size, making the choices seemingly endless for those bods creating spice mixes. Think about that next time you reach for the seasoning when you’re putting together a batch of fajitas.