Earlier this month I went to Paris to meet the QOOQ – not, in this case, a quirky cook but a French-designed and made tablet aimed at foodies (or foodistas, as they call them in France).
Tablets may seem two a penny these days, but the QOOQ was actually conceived and launched before the iPad saw the light of day and, against the expectations of naysayers, it has survived the rise of its shinier and trendier sibling and developed a strong following in its native country since 2009.
The design is strong, sturdy and splash proof with a significantly thicker glass screen than the iPad and the tablet has rubberised feet and a fold out stand that make it very well suited to use in the kitchen. It can even withstand reasonable rough and tumble, though when one of our group dropped a QOOQ on the floor (with the agreement of the team who make it) it did cause some damage, though fairly quickly fixed by an expert.
The other key element of the QOOQ is its content – there are over 3,700 English language recipes, and over 4,000 French ones. A new tablet comes loaded with 1000 recipes and users can either buy additional ones (individually or in blocks) or access them via the monthly subscription service. Another great touch is the option to upload your own recipes onto the tablet, in the same format as the native ones, and these can be shared between QOOQ friends.
Recipes can be sized up and down, and a shopping list for ingredients automatically generated. There’s also a meal planner which allows you to bookmark chosen recipes into the meal planner.
As they use the QOOQ, users can create personal profiles which “learn” their preferences in terms of ingredients they like and dislike, techniques they have mastered or don’t yet know and the kind of recipes they like to make. This allows the QOOQ to offer tailored suggestions in response to recipe searches. And each QOOQ allows multiple profiles to be created, so it can be used by several members of the family.
Recipes are provided by a really wide range of chefs and cooks, many of whom are very well known and successful in their respective fields. Content is wide ranging, to offer something to absolute beginners and advanced cooks alike. Guillaume Hepp, one of the three founders of the business, and Hubert Block, the Marketing Director, talked to us about some of the people who have contributed, though at the moment, the majority of these are best known within France. This French content is now being translated for the UK and American markets, and the instructional videos are being dubbed with voice overs, but the plan is to partner with experts in America and here to film fresh content.
The Linux-based operating system also comes with a suite of applications allowing users to browse the internet, access email, look up the weather, listen to radio, play music and video files and view photos. However, it is locked down so you won’t be able to install additional applications to make it as fully versatile a tablet as others on the market.
The interface is reasonably intuitive and I think most users would be able to find their way around after a few hours of playing with the QOOQ. I’d like to see more thought going into quicker navigation shortcuts such as touch and hold or double tap to drill down through search results and straight into content. Additionally, when making two recipes at the same time, I found it frustrating not to be able to quickly switch between selected recipes without navigating slowly back and forth between them. An option to select up to 5 current recipes and quick switch between them would be a valuable addition. With longer to play with it, I would likely have a longer list of recommended enhancements as these came to the surface within our 40 minute cooking test.
Putting the Qooq to the test, with expert chef Farida
Probably the biggest issue at the moment is the current state of the translation of the French content into English. If the team behind QOOQ didn’t realise before quite how different American and English English are, they certainly did after our visit and feedback on the day! (Two countries separated by a common language, and all that). It’s not just a case of eggplant versus aubergine and cups versus grams but a different style of talking about food. We also encountered a lot of errors such as incorrect equipment lists and mismatches between ingredients mentioned in the introduction and later in the recipe. And as of yet, the translation from American imperial measurements to metric ones is still a work in progress, as we realised when one of our test recipes called for 5 and 5/8 tablespoons of cream!
I like the idea of the QOOQ, though I do think the English language version is not quite ready, particularly for the UK market. Right now, it feels like a late-stage prototype and whilst it’s nearly there, it still needs a fair bit of work to take it to the point where I could recommend it wholeheartedly.
Price point is also an issue. Unowhy? have switched production to France rather than left it in China, where they started, and have worked on automating much of the manufacturing process, such that less human labour is required but I imagine costs are still higher than they would be in the Far East. That may be a contributor to the purchase price of £289 plus a further £7.50 a month subscription fee.
The QOOQ content is great, but I can access great instructional content for free using my existing PC, laptop and tablet and the web. I need to apply a little sorting to sift out the gems, and a little more effort to scale a recipe or generate a shopping list, but I don’t find that too onerous given the zero cost.
Were I free to install additional software onto the tablet, this might sweeten the deal, as the Qooq could then take the place of any tablet on the market, but the restriction to proprietary browser and apps is limiting.
Kavey Eats visited Paris courtesy of Unowhy? With thanks to fellow blogger Paul Hart for permission to use his vastly superior images.