Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Culinary Physics Coming to Harvard

It was only a couple of days ago that I pointed to an article on the Physics of Cooking. Now comes a news report that avant-garde chef Ferran Adrià will be joining other chefs in teaching a course in gastronomy physics at Harvard.

Over 13 weeks, Andrés and Adrià will teach multiple times, while such renowned chefs as Blue Hill's Dan Barber and another Michelin-starred chef from Spain, Joan Roca, will appear once. Students will attend chef demonstrations, physics lectures and labs that explain the structure and characteristics of a classic emulsion (a liquid dispersed into another liquid) and more recent inventions such as Adrià's famous foams (air bubbles surrounded by thin sheets of fluid).

With a greater understanding of the physical parameters of food, students will learn how to manipulate them. Ditto for the chefs. Much of the culinary invention in recent decades has been a result of trial and error rather than scientific research. Adrià is reported to have invented the foam after a friend gave him a canister of nitrous oxide with which to experiment. Andrés developed a hot and cold foie gras soup at Minibar not because he knew that liquids at different temperatures have different densities (he learned that later) but because he had seen the technique used in Irish coffee.

I've seen Adria at his restaurant in one of the episodes of "Bizarre Foods" on the Travel Channel. While there certainly is a lot of creativity (and science) involved in his food preparation and presentation, I must say that I kinda like my food to be more "natural" rather than processed that much. I can understand the foam and the various nifty sauces to enhance the food, but when it has been transformed that much, it no longer becomes that appealing to me. Of course, I'm sure these things are wonderfully delicious, but I guess that my preference has always been the non-pretentious ethnic and simpler ma-and-pa type of cuisine.

It will be interesting if Harvard would put video of these courses online.


No comments: