The Science Behind the Sauce
Why does cornstarch thicken gravy? What’s going on when melted sugar browns? How does a molten chocolate cake stay gooey inside? Students in “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science” not only pose these questions but test them out in the lab and eat the results.
The popular year-old General Education course, aimed at nonscience concentrators, focuses on the physics and chemistry of food preparation. The haute cuisine part involves guest lectures by some of the world’s top chefs; the science part features talks by Harvard faculty on the behavior of soft matter, such as gels, foams, liquid crystals, and granular material.
“This is something you’d get only at Harvard.”
Last fall’s course—led by David A. Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics, and Michael P. Brenner, Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics and Suzanne Young Murray Fellow—culminated in a tasty science fair.
“Science and Cooking” grew out of a collaboration between the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and magician-chef Ferran Adrià of Spain and his Alicia Foundation, and it underscores SEAS’s role as an incubator for new ventures. Says Matthew Menendez ’14, “This is something you’d get only at Harvard.”
Complementing the course is a public lecture series that runs through the fall semester and features such speakers as Adrià, Grant Achatz of Chicago’s Alinea, Wylie Dufresne of wd~50 in Manhattan, and White House pastry chef Bill Yosses. For details, visit www.seas.harvard.edu/cooking.