Top chefs make science appetizing at Harvard

Guest lecturers explain ‘biology of soil,’ physics of cooking

Dan Barber, executive chef and co-owner of New York City's Blue Hill restaurant, lingers after teaching a food-and-science class at Harvard University. International top chefs serve as guest lecturers. (Associated Press)Dan Barber, executive chef and co-owner of New York City’s Blue Hill restaurant, lingers after teaching a food-and-science class at Harvard University. International top chefs serve as guest lecturers. (Associated Press)

“Some of the students came up later and remarked how much easier it was to understand him than us,” Mr. Brenner said of his fellow teachers.

The course grew from a lecture Mr. Adria delivered two years ago. Harvard’s interest in reinvigorating its general-education curriculum dovetailed with work the chef does through his Alicea Foundation to spread knowledge of food and science.

Mr. Adria rounded up his fellow chefs, while Mr. Brenner and his colleagues developed a curriculum to teach basic science principles as well as to introduce students to scientific thinking. Remarkably, the chefs’ areas of expertise and the curriculum ended up closely matched.

Chef Carles Tejedor of Via Veneto in Barcelona led a lab class after delivering a lecture titled “Olive Oil and Viscosity.” Spanish chocolatier Enric Rovira lectured about heat and temperature’s effect through his expertise in chocolate. Nandu Jubany of Can Jubany in Barcelona taught about both scientific and culinary emulsions.

“We didn’t have an agenda beyond showing the students how there was science in their lives through cooking,” Mr. Brenner said. “It seems obvious, but to me it wasn’t, but the way scientists deconstruct a recipe is very similar to the way chefs deconstruct it.”

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