Whether you enjoy cooking or not, it’s a task which most people usually partake in to some degree. I’ve always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen, and have built up a fairly extensive (and space consuming!) collection of recipe books. Nowadays I find the internet to be the best resource for finding recipe inspiration. Sites such as BBC Food, and the extensive All Recipes seem to offer a never-ending collection of ideas.
However, until downloading SousChef I lacked a central resource for storing the wide variety of meal ideas collected via the Internet. SousChef is a kitchen companion for your Mac, offering an extensive database of online recipes, powerful storage and search tools, the ability to create grocery lists, and a few entertaining tools to make cooking easier.
Maintaining a Recipe Library
The core functionality of SousChef is the ability to create a simple database of different recipes. A sample library is created when opening for the first time, to allow you get a feel for the app:
Adding a new recipe is simple, requiring information such as the cooking time, servings, category, cuisine, ingredients and directions. You can also add a photo of the finished result (via an iSight if desired). After trying a recipe, you can rate it. Great for remembering that the chocolate covered steak recipe just didn’t quite work…
All the information added is fully searchable, and you can create custom folders to store specific recipes if desired. SousChef automatically keeps track of which recipes you’ve recently cooked, determined by those for which you’ve entered the full-screen cooking mode.
A grocery list section allows you to add ingredients which need to be purchased, though there doesn’t seem to be a way to automatically add a particular ingredient from a recipe (short of manually copying and pasting it). Personally I’m fairly content with paper based shopping lists, as wandering around the supermarket with my MacBook always appears a little pretentious…
One of my favourite features of SousChef is the ability to change the recipe ‘Yeild’. At the press of a button you can double, triple or quadruple a recipe contents (with the ability to use a custom value if desired). It saves the annoying extra 5 minutes it would take to calculate ingredients otherwise.
Cooking in the Cloud
Another major selling point of SousChef is the ability to search an online database of user-submitted recipes. At the time of writing, there are around 22,000 different recipes stored in the ‘Cloud’. Searching within SousChef separates results into those stored locally, and those available to browse online:
This increases the value of the application immensely, and once again illustrates the power of social networking with desktop software. These recipes can be dragged to your local library for later use, or cooked directly.
The only gripe I have with the online recipes is the lack of pictures. I often decide what to make on the basis of which recipe looks most attractive in a cook-book. This visual area is completely lacking, I imagine due to the extra effort required to photograph food before adding the recipe. It’s understandable, but would really improve the perceived quality of recipes listed.
Venturing Into the Kitchen
Once you’ve decided what to cook, it’s time to get started. Clicking the ‘Cook’ icon will transform your Mac into a portable cooking assistant, showing the recipe on a large full-screen display against a black background. It’s great for ensuring that your laptop doesn’t get covered in tomato sauce, grease or washing up liquid!
In addition to displaying the recipe in a large format, SousChef can also read the instructions directly to you. This is facilitated via the text-to-speech engine built into OS X, and works surprisingly well. Playback can be controlled via the Apple Remote, or through speech if you’re feeling adventurous. I had mixed results with this, but it’s a great concept nonetheless.
Sharing and Exporting
With all these great recipes stored within SousChef, it’s important to have a means to share recipes outside the application. The developers have approached this well, with simple icons making it easy to Print, Mail or Blog any chosen recipe. Each of these options work well, but the Blog action is particularly interesting:
It integrates with Blogger, MarsEdit or will happily export directly to HTML. I’m always pleased to see software integrating with other desktop apps, and a direct link into MarsEdit offers a thoroughly useful solution for someone running a recipe blog.
SousChef is an impressive mix of local recipe management, cloud-based sharing, handy cooking assistance, and comprehensive exporting options. It covers almost all of the requirements I’d have from a cooking app, with the exception of not placing quite enough emphasis on the visual element of food and recipes.
It’s definitely worth giving a try – whether you’re a perfectly seasoned chef or a walking culinary disaster. The regular price is $30, though the app is currently available at a heavy discount through the 2009 MacHeist Bundle.