Multi-Tasking & RDBS Used to Train Tomorrow's Chefs

T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), December 1991 | Go to article overview

Multi-Tasking & RDBS Used to Train Tomorrow's Chefs


The preparation and presentation of new recipes can be a daunting experience for new students. How do you parboil? When a recipe doubles, do you double all of the ingredients? Where do you put the parsley? And what in the world is a kohlrabi? Step-by-step instructions are helpful, but color pictures are truly worth thousands of words in learning correct culinary methods, not to mention a recipe's more esoteric ingredients.

These were the thoughts of Tom Neuhaus, a lecturer at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration. He envisioned a graphics-packed computer database that would familiarize his students with the foods they were to prepare well before they sliced a carrot or diced a single potato. Neuhaus wanted his students to visually experience all aspects of the culinary arts.

"Textbooks have limited graphics," Neuhaus says. "To really understand the preparation of the dishes we make, 20 to 30 color pictures per item are needed. Only some sort of an interactive computer database could supply such graphics and enable our students to browse, investigate and cross-reference various recipes within the framework of a single class."

To implement his ideas, Neuhaus developed the concept and supervised the writing of FABULOUS, a user-friendly interface to a culinary and pictorial database now residing on four UNIX-based SPARCstation 1 computers from Sun Microsystems in Mountain View, Calif.

Recipe For Success

FABULOUS--which stands for Food and Beverage Undergraduate Learning on a UNIX System--is based on Unify Corp.'s database management system and runs on a network of SPARCstations.

Neuhaus began his culinary data-base on personal computers, recording chemical reactions among various foods. As his computer knowledge increased, so did his desire for a more complex and diversified teaching tool. He imagined a relational database with which students could view the ingredients, recipe, preparation methods and finished dish simultaneously.

To implement such a tool, Neuhaus required a number of features that simply were not available on his DOS-based computer system. Speed was the first consideration; the new system had to retrieve images from the database they quickly to support recipe and preparation procedures.

Multi-tasking and windowing capabilities were also vital criteria. Each step in Neuhaus's new teaching method required instituting a number of queries that take time to run. With multi-tasking, it would be possible to run these inquiry sessions quickly in the background. Windowing would enable students to observe ingredients in one window, preparation steps in another, and an image of the finished dish in yet a third.

Neuhaus was also determined to have color graphics. As he says, "Food is too exciting to ruin with black and white images."

Most of the systems he looked at were either not powerful enough, couldn't multi-task or were too expensive. Then he discovered the SPARCstation 1 from Sun Microsystems. "I realized that FABULOUS was going to become a reality," Neuhaus remembers. "The SPARCstation stores more than 12,000 quality color images and corresponding text. It also offers speed, multi-tasking and windowing capabilities at an economical price."

A FABULOUS System

Cornell's School of Hotel Administration installed three SPARCstation ls for student use and a SPARCserver file server. Neuhaus' PC, used primarily for capturing images, is connected to the workstations over an Ehternet backbone via sun's PC-NFS, a SunNet communications product. A JVC video camera plus TARGA 16 and TARGA 24 image-capture boards digitize the photos that will be entered into the DOS computer.

The FABULOUS interface, which runs under X.ll/News, communicates with Unify, which resides on the SPARCserver. FABULOUS enables students to access the database in a variety of ways--through country, specific recipe, ingredient, method of cooking or a number of other categories. …

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Multi-Tasking & RDBS Used to Train Tomorrow's Chefs
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