I Asked AI To Decide My Meals For Me, And The Results Were Kinda Mixed

chat gpt
I Asked AI To Decide My Meals For A WeekVicky Chandler / Fliss Freeborn

Ask any food writer if they’re a control freak in the kitchen, and they’ll likely deny things offhandedly at first - and then under further questioning, crumble and confess that yes, they can’t bear someone else being in charge when it comes to food. I am no different. It’s my pantry I do what I want, as the line famously goes.

So, how would I fare if this control was deftly lifted out of my hands, and into the nebulous depths of AI-technology? I know that one day it’ll likely take my job as a writer, but will it also be able to take over the ‘food’ bit too? To find out, I let Chat GPT (which has hit the headlines for everything from writing students’ essays to creating articles for huge news outlets), generate my meal ideas for a whole week.

Here’s how I got on.

Day One - Jerk Style Chicken & Rice

The day I was asked to write this article, a mate had offered to cook me dinner. When I arrived, he admitted he’d been waiting for me to turn up to suggest something we could make. Having explained that I was relinquishing this very task for a week, we plugged our available ingredients to Chat GPT - chicken thighs, onions, assorted vegetables like broccoli and red peppers, plus rice, and some jerk-style spice paste that needed using - and let it come up with a recipe.

It suggested a fairly safe roasted jerk chicken traybake with veg and rice. The only strange thing was that it wanted us to chop a raw onion into the rice before cooking it, so I put my foot down for the first (and not the last) time in this challenge, and we elected to roast the onions in quarters alongside the other vegetables instead.

Results-wise, the timings worked, the chicken was nicely cooked, and everything was ready at the same time.

Idea creativity 6/10 | Instructions 7/10 | Results 8/10

Day 2 - Black Bean Quesadillas

On the second day, I had a vegetarian friend over. We wanted something quick and easy to eat in front of the new Bridgerton spin-off so I asked Chat GPT for 10 quick veggie meal options. It spat out some pretty uninspiring stuff (lentil soup, chickpea curry, roasted veggies) but one of the ideas it suggested was quesadillas, which I hadn’t had for ages.

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Vicky Chandler / Fliss Freeborn

I asked it for some more detailed suggestions of how to fill them. It gave us a recipe using black beans, which was great as I had a big tin of the blighters on hand already. And, sure, the recipe - not that you really need one for quesadillas - worked fine, but could have done with some more exciting spicing options, and did leave us with a fair number of leftover beans.

Idea creativity 8/10 | Instructions 10/10 | Results 7/10

Day 3 - Wild Garlic, Chicken & Potato Soup

On day three, I found myself offering to make dinner for my family, using leftover roast chicken, cold roast potatoes and an abundance of wild garlic gathered on a lunchtime walk. Like everyone else in the UK come spring, I was desperate for a wild garlic recipe other than pesto, so I plugged that request into Chat GPT and it came up with 5 different ideas, one of which was soup. Inspired by this, but still in need of a way to use up the leftovers, I asked it to come up with a soup recipe using chicken, potato and wild garlic, which it did.

The ingredient list and quantities all made sense. The method, however, suggested pureeing the chicken chunks down to nothing alongside the potatoes. For me, part of the joy of chicken soup is having some texture left, so I didn’t do this - and neither did I blend the wild garlic because if left on the heat, it can go bitter. Instead, I left it just to wilt in at the end.

At this point, it was all tasting fine, but one thing Chat GPT has missed so far in its recipes was any sort of acidity or brightness, so I went off-piste and squeezed in half a lemon at the end. This helped enormously, and my mother and her partner were mightily impressed.

Idea creativity 9/10 | Instructions 6.5/10 | Results 9/10

Day 4 - AI becomes a preachy fitness influencer

I knew I’d be having dinner out after drinking a significant amount of booze on day four, so I asked Chat GPT whether I should have pizza or a kebab afterwards. Irritatingly, it suggested that I make myself a stir-fry rather than doing unhealthy things such as drinking alcohol and eating pizzas or kebabs in the first place. So I ignored that advice fully and instead asked it whether I should have pepperoni or mushrooms on my pizza.

Again, like a stubborn toddler, it refused to decide for me. So I asked it which one it’d choose on a health basis, so it had a nice bit of logic to nibble at. It chose mushrooms but still yoinked on about pizza being a treat food. After 4 wines, this was not what I wanted to hear so I had the pepperoni one out of spite.

Idea creativity 2/10 (points for audacity) | Instructions 0/10 | Results 9/10 (pepperoni pizza was great)

Day 5 - Steamed Chinese-style Eggs

I was insatiably hungry on day 5. In the morning, I ate my way through the entire kitchen, randomly taking things out of cupboards and inserting them into my face, in the hope that by the afternoon I’d turn into a beautiful butterfly. But when it reached about midday, I knew this wasn’t going to happen and I needed some proper sustenance.

chat gpt
Vicky Chandler / Fliss Freeborn

I had plenty of eggs, but I needed some ideas that didn’t involve having them on toast, because I’d eaten all the bread in my hunger-rampage that morning. I asked Chat GPT for 10 different ideas for egg recipes which didn’t involve scrambling, boiling, frying or poaching, and one of its suggestions was Chinese style steamed eggs. I asked it then for a detailed recipe and this was by far and away the best thing it’d come up with all week: the eggs were custardy and slippery and comforting, and when I topped it with the suggested spring onions and soy sauce, it was wonderful. Definitely one I’ll be making on repeat.

Idea creativity 10/10 | Instructions 9/10 | Results 9/10

Day 6 - Black Bean Soup

On day 6, I asked what to make out of those leftover beans from the quesadilla, and it suggested soup. However, with some of the other recipes it had given me so far, there was no indication of serving size, so I specified this time that I wanted just one portion.

Good as gold, it churned out a single-serve black bean soup recipe, which I followed exactly, eyebrows raised at the suggestion of just ½ a cup of stock (that’s only 118ml) and 1/2 cup of beans. Predictably, this gave me a portion that may have once satisfied an elderly hummingbird, so I blended in more beans and more stock, and topped it with feta, chopped red peppers which sank immediately and served it with hot buttered toast. It could have done with a lot more seasoning, possibly an anchovy or two melted in with the onions at the beginning, but a splash of dark soy sauce improved it no-end.

Idea creativity 7/10 | Instructions 5/10 (not big enough) | Results 6/10 (not fabulous)

chat gpt
Vicky Chandler / Fliss Freeborn

Day 7: Ricotta, Cherry Tomato & Basil Tart.

The week before this challenge, I’d bought a tub of short-dated ricotta and had yet to get round to using it, so I asked Chat GPT for 10 different savoury ricotta recipes. They all sounded pretty good, but the one that caught my eye was the suggestion of a ricotta and tomato tart which used puff pastry as a base.

chat gpt
Vicky Chandler / Fliss Freeborn

The idea for the tart was that you mix the parmesan, egg and ricotta together, spread it over the pastry, top with tomatoes and basil and bake. It worked really well. The ratios were absolutely perfect, and it tasted pretty good too. I’d have added nutmeg to the filling, and kept the basil off until after baking, but it was lovely as it was nonetheless.

Idea creativity 8/10 | Instructions 9/10 | Results 9/10

Some Thoughts

And so, Dear Delish Diary, this concluded my week of letting Chat GPT choose my meals.

What did I learn?

Well, that AI is only as good as the prompts you give it. It responds more creatively and better the more details it can chew on - for example, asking it for 10 vegetarian meal ideas yielded relatively uninspiring results, but asking it for 10 ways to cook eggs which weren’t boiling, poaching, scrambling or frying meant that it came up with much more novel options.

It’s good at giving you new ways to use up the things in your fridge, too. I’m relatively adept at this myself as I have a crippling desire not to eat the same meal more than twice in a month (I know, I know) but if you’re stuck in a bit of a rut, then it’s excellent for helping you to think outside of the box.

Getting down to specifics, the recipes are generally quite plain, both in their ingredients and the way in which they’re written. Everything I tried could have done with slightly more seasoning and more oomph in the flavour palate, but the recipes really were faultless with ratios and timings; portion size was slightly more of an issue but that’s probably because I’m greedy.

Of course, Chat GPT isn’t a real human. It can’t taste things for you, or tell you how much salt you really need, or give you stories of the seasoning blends its mother used back when it was just a young chatbot. So sure, use it to help you discover what you’d like to eat. Once that’s sorted, however, log off find a human being who has written a food blog, or a recipe book, or a website such as this one - and cook your food with a little bit more soul. Because, no matter how clever it gets, or how many jobs it’s going to replace, Chat GPT will never have one of those.