Culinary Physics Readings: Week 2

“And rightly so,” Kenneth Chang writes in Food 2.0, a 2007 New York Times article on the (then) novel application of chemistry and science for restaurant culinary purposes, “Cooking is chemistry after all.”

Heat, time, reaction speed, surface area, solution, emulsion, volume, salinity, mixture. It’s amazing that for practically its entire history cooking has borrowed the vocabulary of chemistry, but left untouched the practical and more scientific components. Of course, I’m generally talking about the home cook and the world of restaurants. Large food corporations have been employing chemists since the the early days. Those “processed” foods we see all over the place have been altered from their natural state. And a lot of that alteration is chemical in nature.

But in the last decade and a half or so restaurants and bars have been experimenting with ways to create higher quality products from raw ingredients. Guys like Dave Arnold, who started the French Culinary Institute’s Culinary Technology department and opened the bar Booker and Dax, have always had as their primary objective higher quality.

It’s better eating through chemistry these days as restaurant kitchens regularly cook with technologies developed in labs and even have labs of their own. And it’s better design through cooking as classes like Culinary Physics appropriate these same technologies for more experimental and artistic purposes.