As any experienced blogger can tell you, predicting what posts become popular is a crapshoot.
On the one hand, there are those heavily-researched pieces that take days to write that make a resounding thud after you hit the publish button. Then there are those afterthought posts you whip out in 30 minutes that become viral sensations.
I imagine being a software developer is similar. Sometimes you work on an app for months only to hear the crickets chirping after you ship, and then you create something in a day or two and find yourself with a hit on your hands.
The latter seems to be what happened recently with Samsung’s Whisk team with Cook Magic, a text-messaging based recipe app that allows you to simply text your list of ingredients and it responds with a link to a recipe. Last week the new app (or, more correctly, bot) went on Product Hunt, the popular tech and software discovery community, and it instantly became the second most upvoted new product of the day.
I asked Nick Holzherr, the CEO of Whisk (a company acquired by Samsung in early 2019), the story behind Cook Magic, and he told me the app was “was intended as a fun test only and built in something like 24 hours.” The Whisk team, Holzherr explained, was also looking to demonstrate how to use the Whisk API to “build an app that helps people during COVID.”
The COVID-cooking angle makes sense. Like most people, I’m cooking lots more during quarantine and find myself searching for new recipes almost daily. Often my searches involve looking for a recipe that has ingredients I have on hand, but that’s not always as easy as it looks.
I gave Cook Magic a test ride by texting it a random a list of ingredients. Despite my best efforts to stump it, the API-powered text bot gamely responded each time with a link to a recipe with the ingredients I entered.
Like many things, Cook Magic’s success seems somewhat obvious in retrospect. The idea of a text-based bot that spits back recipe suggestions based on what you have in the fridge is extremely useful, especially in this pandemic-driven moment. It’s also drop-dead simple and doesn’t require me to download an app, something that’s almost always a dealbreaker nowadays.
While bot-driven recipe recommendations are definitely interesting, the idea of culinary help by text message isn’t entirely new. Equal Parts started offering cooking help by text bundled with its cookware last year, but unlike the Cook Magic, the texts are typed by a real person with cooking experience. Before that, ChefSteps experimented with Facebook Messenger bot to help you cook with your sous vide.
If you’d like to try out Cook Magic, just text your list of ingredients to the phone number 415-634-2399, wait about 30 seconds, and then head to the kitchen and start cooking.