Sous-Chef app uses Cortana, OCR and Azure to bring cooking into the future

Jane Koh in the kitchen. Photo by Phil Maier, styling by Natalie Kocsis.

Keeping track of the numerous paper recipes can often be a time-consuming and impractical task. This is a problem Jane Koh hopes to solve in her group’s Hackathon project, Sous-Chef, a Windows app that collates both recipes written down on physical paper and saved in digital formats to create one convenient location for organizing your favorites.

“The kitchen in general is really stuck in the last century. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of technology geared toward people in the kitchen,” she says in an interview with Microsoft. “Sous-Chef is for anyone who has paper recipes and bookmarked recipes strewn about the Internet that they want to get in digital form to use on a device while cooking, without getting kitchen goo on paper recipes or their devices.”

The team behind the Sous-Chef app are an international group of engineers, developers and technical evangelists from the United States, Germany and England. The app uses a combination of Microsoft’s optical character recognition (OCR) software and Azure’s cloud-based search, analytics and machine learning tools to convert the recipes into a single format and make them searchable, editable and customizable.

Once the recipes have been converted, Sous-Chef can use the date to recommend recipes for special occasions and even has Cortana integration which allows for recipe narration and features that enable the user to directly request information on a recipe through voice. A user can ask Cortana, “How long do you poach an egg?” for example and they’ll be given a verbal response with the information they require.

The innovation doesn’t stop there though. Koh has plans for some much more advanced functionality that will incorporate Microsoft’s new digital assistant. “How awesome would it be if you could say, `Cortana, set a timer for 20 minutes for the rice. Cortana, set a two-hour timer for the turkey,’” she says while discussing her ambitions for Sous-Chef. “Something like that would really be such a time-saver.”

Helping with the speech recognition and Cortana integration is, Daniel De Freitas Adiwardana, a software engineer on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM team. “Voice recognition technology has come a long way and will soon be in every Windows 10 device,” he says in the same interview. “So I hope I can help apply it in a very valid, hands-free scenario, which is cooking!”

There is no official launch window for the Sous-Chef app though we’ll definitely post about it when it launches as it sounds like a fantastic concept that not only takes advantage of the benefits of Windows 10 and Cortana but could quickly become a popular app in many households.

Those interested in the app should be warned of other apps currently on the market with similar names such as “SousChef” and “Sous Chef”. The phrase simply means “kitchen assistant” so these similar apps aren’t necessarily copying each other and are simply using a phrase that’s a perfect fit for an app that assists the user in the kitchen.

Do you currently use any apps in your kitchen? Share your recommendations with us in the comments below.

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