Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Executive Chef

Technology is crazy.  To quote the eloquent Dr. Sheldon Cooper, "bat crap crazy."  I mean, I can talk to my Xbox and navigate through screens using methods I still think belong safely inside a sci-fi book.  An iPhone can monitor your heart rate.  You don't even have to go to the bank to deposit a check (if you're a Chase customer... c'mon AFCU - get in that game).  We recently got set up so we can adjust our thermostat through an app linked to our home security system.  And to think faxes still amaze me. *shakes head in bewilderment*

So if it can do all that, I want this (and if it exists, please let me know):

Software Name: Executive Chef
Side Note: Of course I expended the mental energy to title my fictitious software.  And here's why I chose "Executive Chef."  Having watched at least a few cooking shows with my cooking-show-obsessed other half, I've observed that the head chef's job could be summed up as, "everything but the cooking."  And that's what I want my program to do.  But to verify my inclinations, I headed to Google with a quick search for "head chef."  It returned "Executive Chef," which I liked even better.  And, as you read on, you'll see that what I want this program to do very much resonates with the responsibilities of such.  ["spot problems and resolve them quickly and efficiently"  "delegate many kitchen tasks simultaneously"  "maximize the productivity of the kitchen staff"  " ensure that quality culinary dishes are served on schedule"  "modify and create new menus"  " perform many administrative duties, including ordering supplies and reporting to the head of the establishment" (]  Yep.  Executive Chef it is.
Step 1: Importing Recipes

Raise your hand if you consult a cookbook to find a new recipe.  Emailed recipe newsletters?  Pinterest?  Most of us are finding our recipes online these days, which often results in a great recipe that I forgot to bookmark and can never find again.

I want my recipes consistently formatted and indexed, but I don't want to have to do all that re-typing.  I figure if there are a whole bunch of free websites where you can paste a YouTube url and it will spit out a downloaded video in a variety of formats, I should be able to paste a recipe url and get a beautifully extracted recipe complete with ingredients, directions, and preparation time.  I also want the online picture and a nice little place to store the url so I can accurately give credit when someone compliments my cooking.

Step 2: Menu Creation

I want a click-and-drag interface that allows me to select from stored main dishes, side dishes, and vegetables to create weekly menus.  I want intuitive software that notices if I've planned beans three times this week or if every main dish features chicken.  I want it to kindly point these out to me and be easily ignored if I really wanted beans three times.  I want the software to learn from my choices so I can use its "auto" feature for the menu creation and have it create menus for me based on its knowledge that I usually pair "beans" with "fried pork chops" (they just look pretty together).

Step 3: Shopping List

Since all my recipes are in one format and the software knows my menu, I want to be able to just click over to the "Shopping List" tab and print out the list of all the ingredients I need.  But wait, that's only dinner.  I want to be able to bring up a list I've made of staple ingredients and click to add those to the list.  And if I choose to click the "reminders" tab, it will ask me questions preset like, "Does Adam have enough school snacks?" or "Do you still have plenty of Scrub'n'Bubbles?"  This feature should learn from me, too.  It should notice if I put cat food on the list every other month, and it should ask me nicely when it thinks I've forgotten.  Of course, I want the option to print my list or use the integrated App to check off items on my smart phone.  (Which I don't have... another thing for the wish list.)

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I want this list organized.  Not alphabetized.  Not grouped by food type.  I want to be able to select my preferred grocery store, select my route, and have it organize my items accordingly.  "Too much..." you think?  I don't.  If Google can do this...

...well, I think Google can come up with a grocerystoreproject, too.

Step 4: Recipe Display

Okay, the menus are created, the shopping is done, and now it's time to cook.  Assuming I've a tablet (I don't...), now I want to convert that to function as my cook book.  I want lots of display options.  Step by step, voice commanded?  That would be pretty cool.  Or maybe it would read out loud to me.  Also very cool.  I could settle for a regular display, provided that I had readily accessible conversion tables and substitution lists.  And when I'm done cooking, I want a button I click which tracks how many times I've made a certain dish.

Step 5: Fun Stuff

  • Want feedback from the fam?  Clicking the "dinner is served" button sends a survey to all the cellphones and/or facebook accounts of family members.  Make it again?  Scrap this one?
  • Reports - get reports on anything and everything.  How much butter you ate last month.  When you can expect to need to purchase toilet paper.  Data on who likes which recipes.
  • Suggestions - much like GoodReads or Netflix suggests books and movies you'd probably like, I want recipes suggested to me based on my likes and dislikes.
  • Integration - with Facebook and Pinterest for sure, but I'd also really like it integrated with the major online cookbook databases.
  • Social networking - shouldn't be a major part of the process, but I'd like to be able to have "friends" and see what they're cooking.  Share recipes, etc.
I know I present this somewhat in jest, but in reality, I am doing most of this by hand.  The recipe tracking.  The menu creation.  The shopping list with staples and reminders.  And it takes me so. much. time.  In all reality, if this software/site/app combo existed, I'd happily pay up to $100 to own it.  (I might unhappily pay up to $200...)  

So is anybody out there smart enough to create me my Executive Chef?

And - bonus question - what must have features have I left out?


PhilHall said...

Start with a mysql database backbone...

Step 1(v1): Relatively simple Perl text-processing script. Copy and paste the ingredients, directions, picture, url into a form separately. It will take a while to catch all the 'edge cases' and variations.

Step 1(v2): Expand for automatic URL import (basically a wget and same perl text processing) and import from scanner (rip off the binding and install your favorite cookbook - that will take some work).

Step 2: Easy enough - .php front end to the database. I just need to learn php... Auto-menus and historical pairings would be V2.

Step 3: The shopping list is easy enough. Again, learning from you will be V2.

The organization can be done based on typical grocery store groupings. However, "my store" route guidance won't happen until stores keep their maps available online, which would defeat the purpose of them changing the layout every other day, so not likely to happen. Unless you want to maintain this map yourself (yuk).

Step 4: This would of course include recipe 'resizing' and automatic unit conversion to your preferences. We could easilly enough make your 'account' available online. Dedicated tablet apps wouldn't be difficult, but not my area of expertise.

Step 5:
- Feedback: V1 - email based survey, replies sent to the 'app'.
- Reports: Definately. V1.
- Suggestions: V2.
- Integration/networking: V2, maybe V3. Or find someone who already knows how.

You also need some inventory checking functions, and "use my inventory" recipe suggestions. V1.

Receipt scanning would be awesome, but a little tough with those random abbreviations they use... V2 or 3.

But as much fun as such a project would be, similar software already exists:

Therefore, profit would depend on being better than established competition, which at my skill level is unlikely :-(