Speculative Data Cuisine & Edible Storytelling

HotKarot & OpenSauce is a street food bistro serving vegetarian carrot hot dogs topped with specially designed sauces that are made of people’s stories. The sauces are created in the online OpenSauce cookbook enabling users to upload their stories and convert them into personalized data-driven sauce recipes. The resulting ‘storytelling sauces’ can be tasted at the bistro that features a varied menu: each person has a different story; each story has a different flavour determined by the OpenSauce algorithm. So far, people created sauces from their biographies, memories, mood, poems, song lyricsbook abstractsfiction storiesjokes, as well as DNA code. Some used OpenSauce to exchange edible messagesthank-you noteslove letters, and wedding vows; others to share awareness of global food wasting or speculate about possible world endings

The OpenSauce translation of people’s stories into sauce recipes (words into ingredients) relies on the network text analysis method. Each source text (story) is analyzed for its most meaningful keywords, which are later matched with ingredients from the OpenSauce cookbook archive. The translation of keywords into ingredients does not reflect on the actual semantic meaning of the source story nor on any existing culinary traditions and dietary recommendations. The resulting personalized sauce recipes are not likely to have a balanced nutritional composition or flavor profile, and the ingredient pairing is decidedly serendipitous. In this way, users have no control over the ingredients and taste of their personalized sauces. To enjoy the HotKarot snack, they need to trust that the ‘smart’ OpenSauce system knows what is ‘good’ for them. 

As a speculative design provocation, OpenSauce simulates the deterministic function of smart food technologies that use quantified data computation to suggest personalized diets and make food-related decisions on users’ behalf. OpenSauce takes the idea of data-driven food practices to an extreme level: instead of reflecting on users’ taste and dietary preferences, the system creates personalized recipes directly from users’ personal stories (turning words into ingredients). Through this literal understanding of Brillat-Savarin’s You are what you eat, the bistro wants to provoke a productive conflict: how will the visitors negotiate between their personal food preferences and algorithmic food recommendations?

The bistro was opened in 2012 in Prague (CZ) by the design collective Cancel356. Since 2012, the bistro has been presented in various cities and countries around Europe, Australia and South-East Asia. Over the time, the HotKarot bistro has morphed into various alternative forms, including StreetSauce (where sauces are served and narrated by homeless women, our collaborators from the Homelike initiative), HotKarot Riot (sauces made of sound frequencies), Karot Tarot (edible Tarot prophecies), and Eat Your Tweet.