The Intersection of Science and Cooking: How Chefs are Using Science to Create New Culinary Experiences

The culinary world and the scientific world have more in common than one might think. From the method of creating an idea and obtaining results to the use of equipment adapted from scientific laboratories, chefs are increasingly turning to science to create new and exciting culinary experiences. At the heart of this intersection lies the idea that known ingredients can be taken and a common set of techniques used to obtain results. Chefs are using science not only to better understand their cuisine, but also to create new ways of cooking.

From lasers and liquid nitrogen to hydrocolloids that come in white bottles as chemicals, science is an important and constant element in the culinary process. The foods are proportionally scaled and combined in a certain order to achieve the desired results. Chemical reactions occur during cooking through manipulation or emulsification, while controlling heat and cold maximizes food quality and safety. Understanding what happens in the cooking process and using a disciplined approach when applying the principles of culinary science will lead to consistent and predictable results.

Culinary training is an obvious choice for many people who love food and the idea of earning a living from food. However, the popularity of chefs in today's culture may mean that other careers in the food industry, such as food science or nutrition, are overlooked or undiscovered. Some chefs start out cooking in restaurants and then return to school for advanced degrees in food science. This rare breed of professionals is capable of offering the creativity of a chef with the methodical and analytical mind of a scientist. Despite this diffusion of knowledge and interest, mistakes continue to be made.

In 2002, for example, the media described some chefs as “molecular gastronomists”, which is obviously wrong because chefs create food, not knowledge. This confusion was partly due to our scientific program, which was not purely scientific but included technological applications and education. From the beginning, Kurti and I agreed that molecular gastronomy was science and not technology, so we excluded technological and educational elements.

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