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Finding Ingredients and Recipes Just Became Easier with FoodPair

For most of us, cooking meals would be easier if we had better tools for using whatever ingredients we happen to have on hand.

Finding the time to get to a well-stocked grocery store isn’t always easy, and -- as anyone who’s tried to follow an elaborate recipe can attest -- locating the exact ingredients in the precise amounts called for isn’t always possible, either.

Late last year, a little startup company quietly launched in San Francisco that promises to address these issues.

Founded by ex-Googler Raj Irukulla, FoodPair is a recipe search engine that currently provides nearly a million recipes from 14 food sites across the web, from the very large collections at Epicurious to small sites with deep content like 101 Cookbooks to celebrity chef sites like Jamie Oliver’s.

“One of our goals is to help people cook with whatever they have on hand,” says Will Goldfarb, a food writer and attorney who joined with Irukulla to launch the company. “We want it to feel like you almost have a chef with you, we like to think the site ‘thinks like a chef.’”

Much in the Google tradition, FoodPair is focused on understanding how people use keyword search terms to find the recipes they need. The company has also developed deep databases of synonyms and other tools for recognizing the relationships between individual ingredients in recipes.

This allows the site to recommend alternatives in the event you are a key ingredient or two short of what the recipe calls for.

What makes FoodPair very user-friendly is its set of powerful filters. You can search by ingredient or by the 14 partner sites, but also by course (there are a dozen options), complexity, or by diet.

You also can “lock-in” the site to your personal preferences – if you are vegan, and tell FoodPair to remember that, it will limit your search results to vegan results in the future.

You also can save favorite recipes, and help the site learn how to better serve your needs, much the way Pandora does with music, the more you use it.

The site is ad-supported, and holds the potential for targeted ad revenue once its user base scales.

The company is bootstrapped and privately held. It’s only available on the web right now, but a mobile version is “coming soon,” according to Goldfarb.