|Chef Apps for the iPhone and Blackberry
by Emily Bell and Tess Rose
These days there is an “app” for everything, and culinary topics are no exception. Beyond the popular restaurant locator apps, both iPhone and Blackberry now feature multiple apps to help chefs and restaurant pros organize recipes, plan menus, find local produce, and convert measurements. With their modest prices, between zero and topping out at $29.99—with an average of under $5—most apps are cheap and easy to incorporate into the busy life of the working food professional.
Many of the apps we’ve come across focus on organization, conversion, and planning, often overlapping in their functions. But the area is ripe for expansion, with both iPhone and Blackberry actively taking ideas for new apps and suggestions on how to improve existing ones. And chefs themselves are even getting into the mix, with homemade (in-house) app creations customized to their needs. While the iPhone seems to have more apps overall, Blackberry apps tend to have fewer glitches once they’re released. Below are some of the best apps we’ve found for iPhone and Blackberry, accessible to the more or less tech-savvy.
iPhone, iPod Touch
For a chef without an in-house fromagier comes this all-knowing cheese app. With Fromage, you can browse over 650 cheeses of the world. Each entry features photos, tasting notes and wine pairing suggestions. To flesh out a cheese course, experiment with lesser-known varieties, or educate your staff on the wide world of cheese, this app is an affordable must.
Seafood Watch App
Between rising levels of methyl mercury and declining sea-life population, choosing the right fish is not easy, but this app is here to help. Get live updates about which sea creatures to use on your menu while keeping yourself, the oceans, and your customers healthy. Color-coded categories advise you which fish are nutritionally and environmentally safe. Recommendations and reports can be tailored to your general region or more specific location through your phone’s GPS. There is even a sushi guide that includes Japanese names alongside the English names of fish. And the best part—it’s free!
The Blue Ocean Institute is still developing its multipurpose seafood app (complete with wine pairing suggestions), but for now users can use this easy text app that allows them to enter a fish name and get instant feedback on its sustainability.
A comprehensive cooking resource, complete with conversion calculator, temperature conversion guide, and cooking time database, the iCook can store those details and formulas that don’t always fit in the working chef’s memory. It’s a supplementary tool, for sure, but an easy and free way to make sure no recipe, whatever its measurements, is out of your reach.
For chefs looking to share the family passion, this app will put your kid on the fast track to having fun in the kitchen. Little Cook features eye-popping graphics and fun music to motivate kids to bravely follow—and boldly modify—recipes. The recipes are kid-friendly, with the obligatory pizza and ice cream, and they all have an interactive approach, allowing each user to customize his/her dish. A great starting-out tool for a kid with culinary dreams.
Most modern day menus rely on knowing how to source fresh, local ingredients. With Locavore the chef can search for what’s fresh and in season locally using a phone’s GPS. You can access a list of farmers markets by connecting to an online source, which while not always fast or reliable, is a handy feature when it works. For its modest price, Locavore is doing its part to promote sustainability.
The Harvest app features a list (which will most likely keep growing) of 126 kinds of produce, with detailed descriptions of how to select ripe specimens and storage tips. For the chef or restaurateur interested in going greener without necessarily going organic, Harvest provides projected pesticide levels on over 60 produce items (again, the list will probably grow). A cheap investment in ridding your restaurant menu of unwelcome chemical contents.
The Recipe File
Not (currently) for sale
The Recipe File is a home-made iPhone app (the first we’ve heard of) developed by pastry chef Kate Zuckerman, formerly of Chanterelle, and her tech-savvy husband. The app provides just what the working chef needs: organization. Started on her computer over ten years ago, this Filemaker-based app allows for recipe searches with customized categories. Zuckerman’s says her recipes are filed under categories like “the title of the dessert, if it’s a certain sauce, then all the different desserts that sauce has been in, the restaurant I made it at, the date of the menu, the season, the main ingredient, the mise en place and everything else that went on the plate with that sauce,” and so on. Even though it’s not (yet) for sale, and may never be, The Recipe File is an example of the kind of app that’s most useful for the professional chef—an example iPhone may likely follow.
The Herb Garden
For the chef looking to bring herb production in-house, along with bread, charcuterie, and cheese-making, this app provides easy instructions for growing a wide range of herbs, including some rare varieties. A built-in feature allows you to compare growing and tasting notes with other users (and other chefs), so if your chervil crop seems to fail for no reason or your sage is lacking in savor, help is always at hand.
The Easy Bartender can supplement the mixologist’s overworked memory with its 5500 plus drink recipes. Search for recipes by liquor type, ingredient, mixology method, and even glassware. True to its name, this app has detailed descriptions on how to put drinks together, meaning even those with less experience behind the bar can tinker with recipes for a tasting menu or easily adapt old school drinks to modern trends. It’s a bit higher in price, but the database is included in the app, which means no waiting for slow internet connections to load pages.
PDA Cookbook Plus
As Kate Zuckerman’s Recipe File demonstrates, the days of filing recipes on index cards are over—or at least they can be. This Blackberry-friendly app links up to your PC to allow instant access to your desktop. Chefs can enter recipes into a ‘cookbook’ by entering text themselves or copying them directly from websites, pictures included. Catering companies take note: you can automatically scale recipes based on desired servings, meaning the same dish can go from a wedding party of 75 to a launch party with 300-plus guests.