Visualizing recipes – a novel approach by Sascha Wahlbrink

(this post is about _cooking_ recipes; not design patterns or stuff like that :)

I recently came across a cook book by Sascha Wahlbrink that caught my attention due to the amazing new approach to recipes. It uses a diagram type that somewhat resembles UML activity diagrams instead of the traditional textual approach with a simple list of steps to follow. This new approach has a number of advantages:

  • You can see at a glance what utensils you will need during the preparation.
  • The complexity or simplicity of the receipe becomes obvious due to the diagram structure.
  • Stuff that is meant to happen in parallel in differnent places (or different pots and pans) is easily visible.
  • And finally, time gaps become obvious (e.g. you don’t want to see an instruction like “Now freeze for 4 hours in your freezer” just 10 minutes before your guests arrive).


I have given the approach a try by encoding a mildly complex pasta recipe found on the German “Chefkoch” community. The tool I used was “Dia“, an open-source alternative to M$ Visio. Here are the results (available under creative commons license CC-BY-SA):


I have also tried creating a small library of the symbols in Dia, but this didn’t work, because Dia’s extension mechanism didn’t allow for dynamic text in custom shapes. Too bad. But you can easily copy and paste from the Source file provided above to replicate this approach and create your own recipes.


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