PARIS: A delicate mousse flavoured with mango, passionfruit and apricot, crunchy shortbread and hazelnut ganache…
While this may simply sound like the description of a pastry in a fine French restaurant, it actually is the stuff of innovation. Because before it became a reality, this particular pastry was generated by MidJourney.
The recipe came to fruition as the result of a competition launched by the Institut Culinaire de France the aim of which was to create a pastry based on images created by AI.
Generate descriptions for menu items, create automatic responses to customer comments… Artificial intelligence can benefit the restaurant industry in a variety of ways. Most often, it’s been envisioned as a tool to facilitate repetitive tasks, especially administrative ones.
But what if AI also was used in the creative process of dreaming up new dishes?
While pastry chefs usually sketch out their sweet ideas on a notepad, or via a digital tablet like Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini, AI could also be a source of inspiration. Heretical thinking in a sector as creative as French patisserie?
Maybe not, since even the man considered the world’s greatest pastry chef, Pierre Hermé, has agreed to chair the competition, which involves making desserts from visuals generated using MidJourney image software.
The challenge was launched by the Institut Culinaire de France for students enrolled in its Bachelor of Confectionert Arts and Entrepreneurship programme. Entitled Patisserie Challenge 3.0, the challenge initially involved writing a prompt to launch the basis of a recipe.
The competition gave as an example, a prompt asking for “an image of a fresh circular lemon cake, inspired by a Paris-Brest and a Rubik’s Cube. An elegant, geometric cake, garnished with a generous amount of lemon zest.”
In the end, it was a circular creation by Lucía Straulino, Maya Assefa and Karly Laurent Hatem that won the right to appear as a real, edible dessert in the school’s Bordeaux boutique, following a trial competition held on Jan 29.
The jury, made up of Pierre Hermé’s assistant chef Arnaud Coutret, Gault&Millau Editorial Director Stéphane Bréhier, journalist Stéphane Davet and world pastry vice-champion Kyung Ran Baccon, judged that their dessert, named MLK after the initials of the contestants’ first names, best reflected the image generated by MidJourney.
Of course, while a pastry gets devoured by our eyes, it must also taste good. The pastry chefs created a recipe based on a mango, passionfruit and apricot mousse, with a chocolate cookie and hazelnut ganache sponge, all resting on hazelnut shortbread.