From selecting dishes to meeting the specific tastes of guests and—of course— the possibility of disaster in the kitchen, throwing a dinner party is a stressful affair.
What if, instead of spending hours poring through cookbooks, you could type in a few simple prompts and with the magic of generative AI create a full suite of menu items under a specific innovative theme?
Sean Linehan, CEO of San Francisco business coaching startup Exec, tried just that when he threw an AI-generated dinner party over the weekend with “surprisingly delightful” results.
He asked ChatGPT, a buzzy new tool created by OpenAI, to come up with a list of unique fusion themes and settled on an Indian-Mediterranean with input from guests, who were both culinarily adventurous and experienced enough to turn potentially rough recipes into tasty dishes.
“Most of my friends assumed that what it would come up with would be incoherent and disgusting. They assumed that it wouldn’t work,” Linehan said in an interview. “I basically asked them to trust me, that even if it was gross, it would still be funny.
“Even my fiancee was kind of like, ‘I’ll do it because you want me to,’” Linehan said laughing.
Some of the skepticism was warranted. A Japanese-Italian idea, for example, was discarded because of the limited appeal of a sushi-pizza hybrid.
The menu was honed further with prompts that targeted it toward a sophisticated San Francisco palate and dietary restrictions for his eight guests. For each item, he asked ChatGPT to generate a list of ingredients, cooking times, serving sizes and instructions. Then sent the assignments out to his friends.
The resulting dishes included a saffron rice with toasted almonds and currants, hummus spiced with chaat masala, grilled portobello mushrooms with raita and mint chutney and a cardamom-saffron pistachio baklava that was a particular hit.
Here are a few of the dishes. With the modifications made by the various chefs, every dish wound up delicious.— Sean Linehan (@seanlinehan) January 30, 2023
The cardamom-saffron pistachio baklava was a particular delight.
It was a unique mix of Indian and Mediterranean flavors that I wouldn't have thought to try otherwise. pic.twitter.com/GWM5WfL0kO
Nearly all the dishes were tweaked by the various chefs, Linehan said. And there were a few hiccups: For example, a masala recipe that included the spice blend itself as an ingredient and a whitefish stew that required triple the amount of spices the recipe called for.
“Once everybody showed up, there was a collective sigh of relief. I think everyone was a bit nervous that they were going to sit down and have an atrocious meal,” Linehan said. “At the end of the party though, everybody was very pleasantly surprised and said they would do this again.”
Linehan said he’s been using OpenAI’s technology for years and has incorporated generative AI into his own company’s software platform. But the crossover with his culinary interest first happened when, out of curiosity, Linehan asked the platform to develop a recipe for a dish called the “The Ultimate Serotonin Boost” and explain why it selected the ingredients it chose.
To his surprise what emerged was a superfood-laden quinoa salad that met all the criteria of what he was looking for.
Sometimes to the chagrin of his fiancee, Linehan has started to incorporate the use of ChatGPT into regular weekday meals, asking the platform to come up with recipes based on what’s left in the fridge.
Reactions on social media to his AI-generated party were split between excitement and interest and overwrought concerns about humanity delegating oversight of taste and experiences to machines.
Sprinkled over the dinner was a fair share of AI overlord jokes, but references to Roko's basilisk aside, Linehan’s takeaway is that these tools can be very powerful and also just plain fun.
“Anybody that’s treating this as some type of fatalist abdication of human responsibility is just missing the point,” Linehan said. "The whole point is we all enjoyed ourselves with an outrageous amount of very delicious food.”
But he couldn’t help but include a small quip about the coming robot takeover.
“Hey, if we’re going to get subjugated, let’s at least make it pleasant,” Linehan said.
Kevin Truong can be reached at [email protected]