You can’t copyright a recipe. It’s why the 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist who invented the banana split never got rich when Walgreen’s took the idea nationwide, or why chef Dominique Ansel trademarked the word “Cronut” to protect his donut fried from croissant dough but could do nothing to stop Dunkin’ Donuts from selling its own “Croissant Donut.” It’s also why, when you search for any recipe online, you’ll find 1,000 bloggers all claiming to have invented a recipe, pretending they didn’t simply copy or adapt someone else’s.
As a journalist who loves to cook, this lack of proper attribution makes my stomach turn. But finally, one recipe platform seems to have addressed the problem in a big way. To Taste is a new site that lets you find new recipes, put your own spin on them, then easily (privately) save or (publicly) publish your fresh take.
At first glance, it looks and works like any modernist recipe site you know–with big, beautiful photos, clear instructions, and plenty of white space. What’s different is that every single recipe is editable with the touch of an edit button on the bottom of the page. You can add or remove ingredients, rewrite instructions, or even rename the dish. Then you can upload your own photo, too. It’s all as intuitive as changing a notecard recipe, and it takes no more than a few taps. I made a modified recipe in all of a minute–but crucially, it’s attributed to its source. The site automatically links your new recipe back to the original, and the original recipe links your new recipe, too. To Taste is like a beautiful recipe box and a cross-attributed social recipe network in one. There’s no feed, like Facebook, but suggested similar recipes are listed on any page, and you can subscribe to follow updates from individual users.
“We’re all riffing on somebody else’s recipe,” says founder Nicole Campoy Jackson. “Before Julia Child reported that you dry beef before cooking in beef bourguignon, no one knew! Why not celebrate that and build on that and put it up front? That’s kind of the cool thing that I’m surprised hasn’t made its way into digital recipes sites yet.”
Of course, To Taste is not just about attribution for attribution’s sake. It’s a cooking site designed for the way cooks reference information. Even data giants like Google have acknowledged that most experienced home cooks don’t reference one recipe when cooking, but many. (In turn, Google has experimented with averaging recipes together to make one master recipe on common dishes.) Cooks cross-reference by nature, to fact check and understand variations. And based on the comments of Bon Appétit or NYT Cooking, it’s clear that we also improvise by nature, too. How many times have you read “I LOVED this recipe. I added a cup of walnuts, and reduced the temperature to 350 degrees. Came out GREAT!”
What makes To Taste so clever is that it builds this human urge to tweak and experiment right into the design at every level, and in each case, offers credit where credit is due. The only immediate catch is that right now, users cannot upload an entirely original recipe of their own. They can only modify what To Taste has sourced through partnerships with cookbook authors and others–partnerships that it hopes to expand upon significantly.
The site is launching without any external funding, and since it’s free to use, it may soon have ads or other monetization efforts baked in. A social-based platform like this, while promising, is only as effective as its user base is big. That said, there are a lot of fantastic ideas within To Taste, and it would be great to see them catch on in the recipe world at large.