Reported May 2011
PHILADELPHIA (Ivanhoe Newswire) --What do Wolfgang Puck and Top Chef, Richard Blais have in common? These chefs put pizzazz on the dinner plate by using something called molecular gastronomy. It’s a fancy way of saying they’re using science in the kitchen.
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When you think of chemistry what comes to mind? Chemist Subha Das is not what you’d expect. Das often trades his white coat- for a striped apron.
“I think people inherently understand there’s a lot of chemistry and science in food. I’m using food to teach the science now,” Subha Das, Chemist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, told Ivanhoe.
Das teaches a course called kitchen chemistry to students at Carnegie Mellon University. Ever wonder why your frozen dinner doesn’t always heat evenly? Das demonstrates how ice doesn’t heat up using a special light bulb. The filaments glow in the microwave’s hot spots. But cooking up new edible creations is Das’s main course--like caviar made from strawberry syrup. Das mixes the syrup with a compound called sodium alginate.
“As soon as it’s dropped into the calcium chloride, it forms a sphere,” Das said.
The science behind this dish? Calcium has two positive charges, which bond with sodium alginates’ negative ones.
A hand-whipped chocolate dessert demonstrates the principle of emulsion- a mixture of two things that don’t normally blend –in this case, cocoa butter, and any liquid like coffee.
Even liquid nitrogen helps food go from the mixing cup to the dessert tray by instantly freezing pineapple cream. Das’s ultimate goal? To show students that chemistry is not limited to the lab.
“It’s something you can use every day,” Das concluded.
During the seven-week course, students complete assignments asking them to identify ingredients in grocery store foods, and then detail their chemical function. For their final projects, students must prepare a meal using the science concepts they learned in class.
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Department of Chemistry
Carnegie Mellon University
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What do Wolfgang Puck or Top Chef Richard Blais have in common? These
chefs put pizzazz on the dinner plate using molecular gastronomy. We’ll go into the kitchen to show how chemistry adds flare to our food.