Food Network is jumping on board the guided cooking bandwagon. Well, sort of.

The folks at Scripps Lifestyle Studios have taken the long-time Food Network app, In the Kitchen, and added a voice assistant to its functionality. The logic behind the update was that many cooks can’t easily interact with their digital screens when their hands are immersed in dough or other sticky, gooey food prep items. The add-on feature called “Cook with Me,” uses a one-way voice assistant named “Sage” (clever, huh). A cook starts by searching on his or her favorite Food TV recipe.  By using the “Cook with Me” feature, the chef simply says “Sage, next,” and the step-by-step instructions will move on to the next screen.

Yes, it is cool except for the fact the app does not speak the steps; the home chef must read the screen to move from slicing vegetables to adding cheese (in the case of Fresh Corn Tomato Salad). There is an ingredients tab for the recipe which lists everything you will need to make Fresh Corn Tomato Salad. However, the ingredients list section is not voice enabled.

While a cool, new feature, “Cook with Me” offers some ergonomic issues, especially for those who only own small screen digital toys such as an iPhone. Those with micro-sized kitchens (and less-than-perfect visual acuity) may be hard pressed to find the perfect spot to use the app without straining their eyes. It is, however, a small step toward Food Network recognizing the need for guided cooking technology.

Food Network and Scripps may have a long way to go to compete with a host of smart early adopters who has hooked up with Amazon to use its Echo voice assistant set of products to provide recipe search and step-by-step cooking instructions but they are making progress elsewhere. For example, the company recently announced it has updated its popular Alexa skill for the new Amazon Echo Show, making it easier for users to get inspired, explore what they’re in the mood for, and enjoy recipe videos and preview images that enhance the value and enjoyment of their cooking experience.

Heading the pack of those aligned with Amazon’s Echo (aka Alexa) in the world of step-by-step guided cooking is Meredith’s Allrecipes.

While perhaps not powered by Food Network’s roster of celebrity chefs, the Echo-Allrecipes functionality is rather robust. Cooks can search for recipes or ideas by ingredient or sets of ingredients. Need something cooked in a short time frame—just tell Alexa and she (it is a woman’s voice, after all) will comb through the tens of thousands recipes and find a suitable one for any purpose. If you’re using the Echo Show visual skill and the recipe has a video, you can use your voice to watch the video, pause when you need it, watch it again.

For Amazon—especially with its recent Whole Foods bid—guided, interactive cooking is one more weapon in the home grocery delivery business. “Allrecipes, I’d like to make a soufflé….Wait, I don’t have any eggs…Please send me over a dozen Grade A-s.” Within 30 minutes, Amazon Fresh pulls up to my house. You get the picture.

As with anything that Amazon touches, the data is as important as any element of the applications. It’s not clear what data-sharing agreement exists between publisher Meredith and the Seattle digital retailer. The opportunity for the home cook asking for recipes can yield significant data Amazon could use to sell. This could range from cookware and small appliances to specialty food products.

Google Home is not without its recipe skills. The search engine giant has teamed up with Bon Appetit, The New York Times and Food Network to amass a cache of around five million recipes.

And of course, there’s always Microsoft’s Cortana. Having just quietly launched their own hardware product, the software giant across Lake Washington from Amazon can’t be left out of the picture entirely. At the time of the launch of the Invoke in May, The company has five AI skills that are food related, with guided cooking offered via Food Network, and mixology from Bartender.

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Allen Weiner is an Austin-based freelance writer focusing on applications of new technology in the areas of food, media and education. In his 17-year career as a vice president and analyst with Gartner, Inc., the world’s largest IT research and advisory firm, Allen was a frequent speaker at company and industry events as well as one of the most-quoted analysts in the area of new media. With an extensive background in publishing and publishing technology, Allen is noted as the founder of The Gate (, the nation’s first daily newspaper on the web. Born in Philadelphia, Allen is a graduate of Muhlenberg College and Temple University.

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