Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cooking Science at Harvard

With all the hype molecular gastronomy, techniques like sous vide, and concepts like Cooking for Engineers have gathered lately, it shouldn't be surprising when somebody approaches cooking from a scientific prospective... but I admit I rose an eyebrow when I heard about Harvard's new course:
..."From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science", an undergraduate course that uses the kitchen to convey the basics of physics and chemistry, a most unusual Ivy League approach to science.

Each Thursday, David A. Weitz, a physics professor, or Michael P. Brenner, a professor of applied mathematics, covers the science concepts. On the following Tuesday, one of a select group of top chefs, some well versed in kitchen technology — like Wylie Dufresne, of WD-50 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, or Grant Achatz, of Alinea in Chicago — talks about cooking techniques that illustrate the science.
So what is it? A gimmick to allow Harvard to leech some of the cultivated cool of celebrity chefs? A clever way to get poli-sci and history majors to experience laboratory science? Probably a little of both, but I know I'd love to take it. But besides the slight problem of not being a Harvard student, it seems chances would be slim regardless:
Nearly 700 students wanted to enroll. By lottery, 300 got in.
Oh, Top Chef... is there anything you can't do?

If you're curious, here is the first lecture... the first 20 minutes are about the structure of the course, then Harold McGee comes on:



Looks like all the lectures will be on YouTube, so we can all follow along at home.