This edition of Full Belly Files was originally emailed to subscribers on May 19, 2023. To receive Matt Kettmann’s food newsletter in your inbox each Friday, sign up at

I uploaded a portrait of me (the one at the bottom of my newsletter) and asked for variations. This guy apparently looks like me.

A couple weeks ago, the vintner Adam Lee — who founded Siduri Wines in 1994, sold it to Jackson Family Wines in 2015, and now runs Clarice Wine Company, among other projects like Busy Signal — told me that he’d used artificial intelligence to write a newsletter to his wine club members. (You may remember Adam from our Black Sheep x Pickle Room evening earlier this year.)

“I believe that this is the first time that this has been done by any winery and I detail in the mailer when AI did well in this endeavor and the times that they fell short,” Adam explained to me. “I believe there are many opportunities to use AI in the wine world and am working on several other ideas going forward.”

As I was checking out the results, along with Adam’s insightful critiques, and pondering how to present them in my own newsletter, I figured that it would be best, or at least easiest, to flatter Adam by simply imitating his formula, and having ChatGPT write this week’s Full Belly Files.

I tried a few iterations based on different prompts, and am presenting excerpts and summaries of the results below, with my own notes on the process and the product. I also paid $15 to get 115 credits for DALL-E, which is the associated AI-powered image generator. Check out the captions on each “photo” to learn what led to that picture.  

In short, as you’ll see, the AI-generated newsletters are quite generic, managing to say a lot without actually saying much at all. Part of that is because I didn’t give very detailed instructions in my queries — Adam’s examples used a bit more information to create richer results — but it’s also indicative of the survey-type research that the service conducts. Unless it starts talking to real people, ChatGPT can’t really do its own reporting or deeper research beyond what’s available online.

So I don’t think journalists who write the original pieces that become part of these AI surveys have too much to worry about — at least for now. I can’t say the same for professors grading dozens of papers each quarter, or for those students who will opt for faking book reports over reading the book themselves. And when the “godfather of AI” warns ChatGPT could cause serious harm, we should all be a bit worried.  

But I’m pretty sure that this newsletter gimmick won’t trigger the apocalypse. For the first one, I merely requested that ChatGPT “Write my Full Belly Files newsletter for me.” This is what came out.

This is what ChatGPT looks like.

Subject: Savoring Delicious Delights: The Full Belly Files Newsletter

Hello food enthusiasts,

Welcome to the latest edition of The Full Belly Files, where we dive into the world of culinary wonders and share our passion for all things delicious. From delightful recipes to foodie trends, this newsletter is designed to satisfy your cravings and inspire your culinary adventures. So, grab a seat at the table and let’s embark on a gastronomic journey!

It then proceeded to include a “Recipe Spotlight” on “Enchiladas Verdes”: a “Foodie Trends” piece on “plant-based meat alternatives” for burgers and ice cream; a “Food Destination” segment on Barcelona; a “Chef’s Corner” on Indian cuisine expert Maya Patel; and a “Kitchen Hacks” paragraph on peeling garlic and ingredient substitutions.  

I felt we needed to get a bit more specific, so I typed in, “Write Full Belly Files newsletter about Santa Barbara food & drink trends.” Out came the following:   

Subject: Unveiling the Santa Barbara Food & Drink Scene: The Full Belly Files Newsletter

Hello foodies,

Welcome to the latest edition of The Full Belly Files, where we explore the culinary landscape and bring you the freshest updates from the world of food and drink. In this edition, we’re setting our sights on the stunning coastal city of Santa Barbara, California, known for its picturesque beauty and thriving culinary scene. So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to discover the delectable food and drink trends that are putting Santa Barbara on the map!

This one is great. I requested: “Angry food writer eating at a bad seafood restaurant in Santa Barbara.”

The subsections in this version included “Farm-to-Table Delights,” a basic nod to farmers and restaurants; “The Rise of Craft Breweries,” mentioning “hoppy IPAs to rich stouts and refreshing sours”; “Seafood Sensations,” calling out “succulent lobster rolls to perfectly grilled local fish”; “Wine Country Wonders,” accurately mentioning that the “American Riviera”  is “renowned for its cool climate varietals, especially pinot noir and chardonnay”; and “Sweet Treats and Artisanal Desserts,” featuring, without naming anyone, “an array of talented pastry chefs and dessert artisans who create mouthwatering confections that will satisfy your sweet tooth.”

There was plenty of colorful, cogent writing there, but not much information. I tested it more by writing, “What’s happening with The Ellwood restaurant at Goleta Beach?” I had just written about this in a recent newsletter, and have otherwise covered it extensively, so I figured it was a softball question for Mr. GPT. But no.

As an AI language model, I don’t have real-time information or access to current news. My knowledge is based on information available up until September 2021. Therefore, I’m unable to provide you with the latest updates on The Ellwood restaurant at Goleta Beach. To get the most accurate and up-to-date information, I recommend reaching out to local news sources, checking the restaurant’s official website or social media pages, or contacting the restaurant directly for the latest updates on their status and operations.

I do very much like the suggestion to rely on your local news courses for updated information, but was disappointed that I couldn’t rely on this machine to do any actual reporting. For my last test, I wanted to see how ChapGPT handled writing a wine review. So I requested: “Write a review of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.” Here’s what happened, in full.  

Title: Captivating Complexity: A Review of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

Introduction: Sta. Rita Hills, nestled within the Santa Barbara County wine region of California, is renowned for its exceptional Pinot Noir. With its cool climate, maritime influence, and unique terroir, Sta. Rita Hills produces Pinot Noir wines that captivate the senses. In this review, we delve into the world of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, exploring its characteristics, flavors, and the overall experience it offers.

Tasting Notes: Upon pouring a glass of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, the wine reveals its allure with a vibrant, translucent ruby hue. The aromas immediately engage the senses, drawing you in with their complexity and depth. Ripe red berries, such as cherries and raspberries, dance alongside earthy notes of forest floor and damp soil. Delicate floral undertones, reminiscent of violets and roses, add a touch of elegance.

On the palate, Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir truly shines. The wine showcases a perfect balance of fruit, acidity, and subtle tannins. Flavors of red currants and cranberries dominate, intermingling with hints of black tea and warm spices like cinnamon and clove. The wine’s medium body carries these flavors gracefully, leading to a long, lingering finish that leaves a touch of dark chocolate and a whisper of oak.

Overall, Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir presents a remarkable harmony of flavors, showcasing the region’s terroir and the skill of its winemakers. Its intricate layers of fruit, earth, and spice provide an evolving experience with each sip, making it a wine that both intrigues and delights.

I requested: “Wine critic tasting red wine at his kitchen table with laptop and five glasses of wine in front of him.”

Food Pairing: The versatility of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir makes it an ideal companion for a range of culinary delights. Its bright acidity and refined tannins complement a variety of dishes. Consider pairing it with roasted duck breast, where the wine’s red fruit notes accentuate the richness of the meat. For a vegetarian option, a mushroom risotto brings out the earthiness in both the wine and the dish, creating a harmonious pairing. Additionally, aged cheeses, such as Gruyère or Comté, find a delightful companion in Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, as the wine’s nuanced flavors beautifully complement the cheeses’ nutty profiles.

Conclusion: Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir showcases the beauty and complexity of the region, delivering a sensory journey that wine enthusiasts and novices alike can appreciate. Its alluring aromas, vibrant flavors, and graceful structure reflect the unique characteristics of Sta. Rita Hills and the dedication of its winemakers. Whether enjoyed on its own or paired with a well-crafted dish, Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir leaves a lasting impression, reminding us of the magic that can be found within a glass of exceptional wine.

So, raise your glass to Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir — a wine that embodies the elegance and allure of California’s Central Coast, inviting you to savor its captivating complexity.

For a basic request, I’d say ChatGPT handled this one rather well, providing solid geographical information and accurate aromatic/flavor descriptors, and as well as meaningful pairing suggestions. So I agree with Adam Lee that AI may one day find a meaningful place in the wine world. It’s not quite there yet, but I’ll keep watching. It sure made writing this week’s Full Belly Files much easier!

P.S.: The night after writing this newsletter, I showed my kids ChatGPT, and requested, “Write a song about chickens that like to eat eggs.” The lyrics were, in fact, quite hilarious and even led through a compelling story of how the chickens decided to move onto eating worms. That one scared me more than anything else. Songwriters beware.

From Our Table

The Hilt Estate | Credit: Courtesy

Here are some articles you may have missed or just maybe need a remind that they’re connected to events happening this weekend:

  • The Santa Barbara Vintners “Behind the Scenes” series of panels starts tonight, May 19, and runs through Saturday. Click here for more details.


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