According to the creative folks at Kinetic Art, Mind Watering, also titled Look&Cook, isn’t just another chef cookbook for the iPad — it’s” a whole new way of cooking.” They’ve brought together a dream team behind renowned Israeli chef Meir Adoni, delivering stunning food photographs, talented styling and inventive design. Their mission: to combine the warmth and beauty of a printed cookbook with the latest technology. Mind Watering provides 51 recipes from the chef and over 750 mouth-watering images of the dishes, steps and techniques. The app uses innovative features like voice activated recipe navigation to solve usability problems other apps have ignored. Can the Look&Cook platform really revolutionize the way we cook with the iPad?
Keep reading to find out.
Initially the identity of this app is a bit confusing. Named Mind Watering in the app store, the icon says only “Look&Cook”, and it takes a bit of digging to figure out what exactly is going on. The app’s description in iTunes focuses solely on the “mouthwatering recipes and photography, advertising a “step-by-step cooking app.” It’s fine to create a beautiful app full of recipes and professional photography, but users need reliable recipes from a trusted source — they need to know who’s behind the content.
Open the app and discover an attractive, cleverly designed stencil displaying the name, Look&Cook set over a photo of appetizing recipe ingredients. After scouring the Internet to learn more story behind this app and buying it without understanding who is behind the 51 “delicious and mouth watering recipes,” you finally get an answer in the About page.
There is no mention of Mind Watering, and it seems the team behind the app, Kinetic Art, have created Look&Cook as an iPad cookbook platform with the intent of marketing it to content creators, including publishers, bloggers and chefs. This inaugural app is a collection of recipes and demonstrations by one of Israel’s most distinguished chefs, Meir Adoni. It’s great to find an introduction to the team behind the app, including design, food photography and styling. It would be even better to find a more personalized description of the app in iTunes so users know what they are buying into.
Once you’ve gotten to know the people behind the app, it’s time to delve into the content. Swipe to remove the Look&Cook stencil and reveal a strikingly beautiful photo of ingredients set out mise en place, ready to cook a recipe. At this point it’s unclear what to do next. Swiping again takes you straight into a recipe collection called Everyday, but if you’re like me you want a bird’s-eye-view of everything in the app to understand where you’re headed.
The Overview button displays a table of contents for the Everyday recipe collection, but you still feel a bit lost and unsure. Then you notice a small arrow in the lower left corner of the screen and realize that by swiping upwards, you can see all the recipe categories: Everyday, Breakfast, With The Guys, Barbecue, Picnic, Romantic, Dinner Party and Vegan Pleasures.
In an effort to create an immersive app experience and give users a feeling of discovery, the designers of Look&Cook may have left users with too little direction. The app dumps users straight into recipes with no introduction, ignoring the fact that it’s the story behind the recipe that engages users. Pretty pictures and tasty food are nice to have, but an introduction to the chef and his philosophy would make this app much more interesting.
Exploring the Recipes
Now it’s time to explore the recipes. Swiping through Meir Adoni’s sophisticated, inventive dishes and perusing Dan Peretz’s inspiring photographs is like crack for foodies — exhilarating! The app design is sleek and modern with a focus on the artistry of chef, who not only has his own renowned restaurants in Israel, but has also cooked at some of the most influential, innovative restaurants in the world, including Noma and Alinea.
This is a chef cookbook full of new techniques and surprising flavors combinations. In Picnic, the recipe for Poyke Beef with Root Vegetables involves slow-cooking stew nestled in the embers of a campfire. The Dinner Party section features a recipe for sea scallops are marinated in maple syrup and whiskey, then wrapped in bacon. White tablecloth worthy dishes like King Trumpet Mushrooms, Forbidden Rice, Porcini Cream make the Vegan recipes exotic and enticing to herbivores and meat eaters alike.
Creative director, Ronen Mizrachi uses his passion for traditional print design and typography to romance users in the same way flipping through a printed cookbook does. The result is a truly exceptional app experience. Though the app is short on words, the photos draw users into the story. Amit Farber’s styling contributes dynamic scenes; from rustic tablescapes to live action captures of cooking over an open fire to extreme close ups of the most perfect, delicately plated sushi. The look of this app is so professional, so top class, that it’s hard to comprehend how it can only cost $0.99.
Cooking the Food
Every dish in the app looks so appetizing — it’s hard to decide what to cook first. This is definitely slow food, and while it’s refreshing to see chef instructions that aren’t overly complicated, most of these aren’t thirty-minute meals. You’ll find a good range of recipes, from the quick and simple Tuna Sashimi with Melon Cucumber Salad (from the Romantic category) to the more involved Lamb Osso Bucco (Dinner Party). Chef Adoni encourages users to try new things without making the recipes too difficult.
Each recipe begins with a photo of the ingredients and a chart depicting servings, active cooking time and preparation time. The next screen is a recipe card with an Ingredients list and steps broken down into easy to manage tasks. In Cook mode you can swipe through each step one-by-one, demonstrated in photos and videos depicting techniques like trimming an artichoke or poaching an egg.
One feature sets Look&Cook apart from all the other cooking apps: hands-free activation. Tap Voice Activation at the bottom of the screen and the app instructs you to say “next” and “back” to navigate through the recipe. This is a fantastic feature that solves an important problem users struggle with: using flour-covered hands or fishy fingers to tap the iPad screen. Kudos to Kinetic Arts for implementing this solution so successfully in their app — the voice commands work perfectly!
I criticized Look&Cook for not giving users the story behind the chef and recipes upfront only to discover that after swiping through the last recipe of the app you find a beautiful, engaging feature story behind the chef. It’s a surprise, as they don’t note this in the bird’s-eye-view of the content, and I still think users need to see this earlier in the journey. Other than that, there’s little to criticize about this app. Look&Cook is the whole package: beautiful design, meaningful content, inspiring recipes and gorgeous food photography. If you love food, no matter your cooking ability, you will love Look&Cook and be inspired to try Chef Adoni’s modern, inventive recipes in your home kitchen.