The public is invited to join world-renowned culinary visionaries at UCLA’s popular "Scientific Bake-off" on Sunday, June 1, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The event is part of life scientist Amy Rowat's annual "Science and Food" academic course.
Dave Arnold, founder of the Museum of Food and Drink, will discuss his latest culinary innovations, food experiments 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, will share her process of invention, research and discovery in the kitchen. Kwak was honored as one of Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30" in 2011 and received a "30 Under 30" award from Zagat’s in 2012.
Students in Rowat's course will prepare apple pies — having previously conducted experiments concerning the texture and other physical characteristics of their creations — and will explain their results. The students, who tasted more than half-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.
Audience members can also learn about the science of coffee, with lattes served by Espresso Republic.
The event will close with an "Iron Chef"–style discussion of the winning pies, featuring a panel of esteemed judges, including Arnold, Kwak, Los Angeles Times restaurant critic and UCLA alumnus Jonathan Gold, and National Pie Festival champion and Gjelina Take-Away chef and partner Nicole Rucker, along with UCLA life sciences professors and award-winning pie-bakers Paul Barber and Rachelle Crosbie-Watson.
Tickets for the event, "Harnessing Creativity (and the Science of Pie)," are $25 (general admission) and $5 for students and are available through UCLA's Central Ticket Office. The event will be held in UCLA's Ackerman Grand Ballroom and is intended to "promote the public understanding of science through food, and food through science," said Rowat, a faculty member in the UCLA College.
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 scientific 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.
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