World-renowned chefs will come to UCLA to participate in UCLA life scientist Amy Rowat's popular annual "Science and Food" course and public lectures.
This year's open-to-the-public events, which will all include food samples, start next month:
The Science of Sushi Wednesday, April 23 7 p.m.
UCLA's Schoenberg Hall (map)
Featuring: Ole Mouritsen and chef Morihiro Onodera
Ole Mouritsen is a professor of molecular biophysics at the University of Southern Denmark whose books include "Sushi: Food for the Eye, the Body and the Soul," "Life: As a Matter of Fat," "Seaweeds: Edible, Available and Sustainable" and "Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste." An elected member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, he will illuminate the science underlying sashimi, nori, sushi rice, umami and more.
Mouritsen will be joined by chef Morihiro Onodera, who will share his approach to sushi and provide an inside look at his partnership with a rice farm in Uruguay. Onodera was trained as a sushi chef in Tokyo and at such Los Angeles restaurants as Katsu, R-23, Matsuhisa and Takao. He opened his own restaurant, Mori Sushi, in Los Angeles, where he prepared many handmade ingredients, harvested locally grown rice and created handmade pottery used in the restaurant. (He sold Mori Sushi in 2011 and began creating pottery for several Michelin Guide restaurants in Los Angeles.)
How We Taste
Wednesday, May 14 7 p.m.
UCLA's Schoenberg Hall (map)
Featuring: Dana Small, chef Wylie Dufresne and Peter Meehan
This lecture will explore how we taste from the perspectives of a scientist, a chef and a food writer. Dana Small, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University, will describe how our brains respond to flavors and shed light on the link to obesity. Her research focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind flavor-preference formation, investigating the role of cognition in chemosensory perception and determining how the modern food environment impacts brain circuitry. (Small will also present a seminar, "Creating Flavor Percepts and Preferences," on May 13 at 4 p.m. as part of the UCLA Neuroscience Seminar Speaker Series.)
Wylie Dufresne, chef and owner of wd~50 in Manhattan, will present his creative approach to generating surprising food flavors and textures. He has been nominated for multiple James Beard awards, including nominations for best chef in New York City for seven consecutive years; he won the award in 2013. Alder, Dufresne's second restaurant, opened in Manhattan's East Village last year.
Peter Meehan, currently a writer and editor for the journal Lucky Peach, will discuss his experiences with food and taste and how they have shaped his writing as a cookbook author and former scribe for the New York Times.
Harnessing Creativity (and the Science of Pie)
Sunday, June 1 2–4 p.m.
UCLA's Ackerman Grand Ballroom (map)
Featuring: Dave Arnold and chef Lena Kwak
At this event, Museum of Food and Drink founder Dave Arnold will discuss his latest culinary innovations and the role of creativity in food. Arnold launched the New York–based museum to promote education on the history and culture of food.
Chef Lena Kwak, co-founder and president of Cup4Cup, was honored as one of Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30" in 2011 and received a Zagat "30 Under 30" award in 2012. She will share her process of invention, research and discovery in the kitchen.
In addition, students in Rowat's course will participate in a scientific bake-off, preparing apple pies, conducting experiments concerning the texture and other physical characteristics of their creations, and explaining their results. The students, who taste more than a dozen apple pies at the beginning of the course to establish a better understanding of what makes a good pie, will present their apple pies in a large-scale tasting. The event will close with an "Iron Chef"– style discussion of the winning pies, featuring the keynote speakers and renowned local chefs, food critics and scientists.
Tickets for each event are $25 (general admission) and $5 for students. They will be available starting Monday, March 24, at 10 a.m. through UCLA's Central Ticket Office.
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The events are intended to "promote the public understanding of science through food, and food through science," said Rowat, a faculty member in UCLA's College of Letters and Science.
UCLA undergraduates in her course explore such topics as texture and flavor from a scientific perspective — why, for example, different cuts of meat have different textures, why some food is crispy, and how to create and stabilize the air pockets you find in a soufflé.
In her research, Rowat studies the physical properties of cells and tissues, including their textures, which can indicate health or disease. Some cells, for example, have a stiffness similar to Jell-O while others are more like cream cheese. Cancer cells, she said, are generally two to four times softer than normal cells. Her laboratory conducts studies on cancer cells and other cell types.
Rowat, who greatly enjoys cooking, teaches the "Science and Food" course and holds the related public events each spring.
UCLA is California’s largest university, with an enrollment of more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university’s 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 337 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Seven alumni and six faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.