The Science of Food Challenges

 

pho-challenge
This is the poster featuring the food challenge in the restaurant.

On November 27, 2016, my family went to VN Pho for dinner on the way back from Florida. There we found a challenge of epic proportions: 4.5 pounds of food. The VN Pho challenge costs 20 dollars and only requires 30 minutes. If you finish it, you end up on the wall of fame. If not, then you end up on the wall of shame. Three fellow competitors and I decide to try to tackle the monster. It did not go well for any of us. The soup destroys its competitors through some very sneaky science, specifically through physics and psychology.

pho-noodle
Here is my leftovers from my failed attempt.

A first look at the bowl provides one of the scariest sights. This first psychological impact usually reduces the morale of a competitor as the sheer size of the bowl deters competitors. The longer the challenge goes on, the diminishing returns create a greater negative impact. Diminishing return usually refers to the happiness one receives buying or consuming a product which usually goes down as you get more of it such as eating your favorite food everyday.. This may even lead to a negative outcome as you become disgusted eventually. The psychology of food works against the competitor especially with food challenges .

The physics of a food challenge only apply to this VN Pho food challenge as it is a noodle soup. Overtime, the noodles in the soup continue to cook in the hot broth. Al dente rice noodles have a slightly gummy texture to the noodle, while overcooked noodles have a soft texture. In Vietnamese pho, the presence of bean sprouts and other vegetables provides a contrast of textures. The pho challenge did not feature any contrasting textures, which leaves all the food with the same texture. As time goes on, the noodles become mushy and too soft to enjoy anymore.

Similarly to physics of the noodles, the beef in the pho challenge also has the same texture as the noodles which creates an undesired effect of chewing on soft food. In this case though, the beef was not tender which increased the amount of chewing. Eventually, I could feel my jaw becoming tired the longer the challenge went on with the excessive amount of chewing. This would decrease the rate of consumption.

destroyed
My smile was not from happiness, but from deliriousness.

After the challenge, I indeed felt tired after the failed attempt. One punch to the gut would have ended me. My picture will now forever stay on the wall of shame until I finally succeed. I did finish the most out of all 4 competitors that day, but the challenge obliterated us in the end. I will return some day to battle the soup once more and claim my glory.

 

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Fizzy Fruit

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Fizzy fruit showcases the hidden science behind food and how we manipulate chemistry and physics to create a fun, surprising result. I followed a recipe from ChefSteps using their dry ice method. Before I made this recipe for my class, I tested the idea out on a smaller scale. I first bought a foam cooler, 2 lbs of dry ice, and pre-cut fruit from Publix. The process of making the fizzy fruit only provided one annoyance, not being able to see what was going on inside the cooler. When I opened the test batch, the fruit froze, but it had an intense fizziness. I asked some people from my hall to try out the fruit and reactions varied from a pleasant surprise to intense confusion. The fizziness just surprised most people as I did not inform them what happened to the fruit until after they tried it.

When I brought the fruit to class for my food presentation, many people wondered what was in the cooler. When I introduced them to the dish, my classmates were confused, and some were even scared. When they took their first bite, their reaction matches reaction from my test run, but some enjoyed it more when they had more servings of it.

Material

1 cooler

2 lbs of dry ice

1 clean cloth

Assortment of Fruit

Plastic Wrap

Directions:

  1. Cut fruit into 1 inch chunks. If using grapes, leave whole.
  2. Place the dry ice in the bottom corner of the cooler.
  3. Place a rag over the dry ice to prevent direct contact between the dry ice and fruit.
  4. Place the fruit on top of the cloth.
  5. Close the cooler.
  6. Wrap the cooler in 5 layers of plastic wrap to prevent CO2 from escaping.
  7. Leave the cooler in a cool area for 12 hours.
  8. Open the cooler and serve fruit immediately.

*Dry ice can be obtained from most supermarkets such as Publix, Walmart, and Kroger. Take all recommended precautions to using dry ice as it many degrees below zero which can cause burns with prolonged contact to skin.

The science behind the fizz

According to ChefSteps, the science of the fizz depends on the what dry ice comprises, CO2. Dry ice directly turns into a gas from a solid state, sublimation. The volume of the gaseous CO2 is greater than the solid CO2 seen in the dry ice. When more CO2 turns into gas, the pressure inside the cooler builds up. In chemistry, particles will move from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. In the case of the recipe, the CO2 will move inside the fruit as the pressure of gas in the fruit is less than the pressure of the gas outside the fruit. This provides the carbonation of the moisture in the fruit like carbonated soda. When you open the cooler, the pressure inside the cooler changes as the CO2 escapes into the room. Then the CO2 in the fruit also will escape into the room leaving the fruit with no fizz.

Works Cited

Fizzy Kiwi. Digital image. Pexels. Pexels, 4 July 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

“Tips & Tricks: Fizzy Fruit.” ChefSteps. ChefSteps, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

The Great Minds of Molecular Gastronomy

Molecular gastronomy is the science of cooking. People research it in a laboratory and in the kitchen. In the world of molecular gastronomy, certain chefs have created a name in the culinary industry. These are the some of the most famous molecular gastronomists in the world. Each person offered their own twist in the field that now have become iconic.

 

 

hestonsound-of-the-seas

Heston Blumenthal

One of the greatest molecular gastronomist in the United Kingdom, Heston Blumenthal owns a restaurant called the “Fat Duck”. He is known for creating new sensations in food and fooling people. One of the mains icons is the “Sound of the Seas’ and the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”. Blumenthal often tricks customers through the dishes from deceiving appearances from edible soil to alcoholic candy. The “Sound of the Seas” (pictured above) entails an assortment of seafood and sea vegetables placed on an edible sand against a foamy wave. Customers wear earbuds with the meal to simulate the crashing of the ocean.

 

 

ferransoup

Ferran Adrià

A native of Spain, Ferran Adria was the head chef of elBulli, a three Michelin star restaurant in Roses, Catalonia, Spain. He was at one point the center of controversy as a fellow Spanish three Michelin chef Santa Santamaria criticized Ferran Adria’s food as pretentious and filled with dangerous chemicals. Throughout his tenure, Adria has created over 1000 unique dishes that pushes the limit of culinary ideas. He now runs “elBulliLab” which is an establishment dedicated to researching molecular gastronomy. Additionally, this establishment replaced the restaurant, elBulli. The dish above plays with the idea of wealth in something as simple as soup with edible gold specks in the soup. The gold adds an elegance of the dish focusing on the essence of gold and why it is valuable.

 

 

grantscallop

Grant Achatz

One of the leaders in molecular gastronomy in the United States, Grant Ashatz own the Alinea in Chicago, Illinois. His restaurant is #15 in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants. Ashatz transforms traditional French cooking into innovative, fun interpretation through each dish he makes. Often times, his food pushes the boundaries of what a meal entails from green apple helium balloons to a Jackson Pollock inspired chocolate and violet dish. The dish pictured is his “scallop” dish which mimics tofu with a unique seafood twist with a smoked broth that complements the taste of the seafood “tofu”.

 

 

massimolemon-tart

Massimo Bottura

Voted the #1 Restaurant in the World by Restaurant Magazine, “Osteria Francescana” holds the highest standards in food from Chef Massimo Bottura. As a native Italian, Bottura believes in the emotion and art of food. A dish needs to tell a story to the customer through the senses. In a conservative food culture of Italy, his innovation on cooking do not ruin the traditional flavors of Italy. One of his signature dishes highlights the unintentional beauty of a mess called “Oops, I’ve dropped the lemon tart”.  The dish came from the idea that Bottura saw in the beautiful mess from an actual accidentally dropped lemon tart.

 

Works Cited

Humphries, Courtney. “Cooking: Delicious Science.” Nature 486.7403 (2012): S10-S11. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

“The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.” TheWorld’s50Best. William Reed, 2016. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Unlikely Extravagant Food

People always assume fancy, “sciency” food to be expensive and difficult to pronounce like “Bœuf bourguignon with a beef consomme and mirepoix.” Molecular gastronomy can apply to every day cooking of food from the high end restaurant to your own home. In

pizza
The addition of extra virgin olive oil produces more desirable flavor on the pizza (Caporaso et al., 2015).

an Italian study, scientists tried to find the “True” Neopolitan Pizza from the influence of extra virgin olive oil in pizza (Caporaso et al., 2015). The entire result from the study found that the pizza with the virgin olive oil tasted better than with refined olive oil or sunflower oil. Every time you go to an authentic Italian pizzeria, their drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on the pizza is completely justified by science.

 

As molecular gastronomy grows in popularity, home cooks can now buy affordable equipment that replicates the cooking from restaurants. Over time, we understand how cooking affects food, so inventors can make devices that replicate these desired effects. A sous vide machine idolizes the ease of sous-videcooking for the every day cook. The machine works by heating water in a container to a certain temperature. The cook only has to put a portion of protein in the sous vide bath and the machine cooks your food to whatever desired temperature. The machine guarantee perfectly cooked protein and vegetables. Some professional chefs find that extremely lazy and criticize molecular gastronomy. Other chefs praise the simplicity and ease of these new devices. Herve This points out that this is technically not molecular gastronomy as there is a difference between culinary technology and culinary science (This, 2013).

People see that molecular gastronomy only ruins our traditions in cooking, but the field only seeks to find the truth with our traditions. Molecular gastronomy have a basis in traditional methods of cooking such as with roasting turkey. Many processes for roasting turkey often involve using a a brine, and the brine helps the turkey retain moisture when cooking. Molecular gastronomists confirm this tradition as they achieve the same results in their studies on roasting turkey. Sometimes, traditional methods still provide the best way of cooking a dish.

People should realize that molecular gastronomy involves more than just fancy food. Every rule of thumb in cooking probably stems from an age-old tradition tested by scientists that actually prove that the validity of these rules.

Works Cited

Caporaso, Nicola, Virginia Panariello, and Raffaele Sacchi. “The “True” Neapolitan Pizza: Assessing The Influence Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil On Pizza Volatile Compounds And Lipid Oxidation.” Journal Of Culinary Science & Technology 13.1 (2015): 29-48. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

This, Hervé. “Solutions Are Solutions, And Gels Are Almost Solutions.” Pure & Applied Chemistry 85.1 (2013): 257-276. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.

Neopolitan Pizza. Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Wikipedia, Sept. 2005. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

Sous vide. Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Wikipedia, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

Magnifying Molecular Gastronomy

herve_this_at_dublin_institute_of_technology_cathal_brugha_street_2011
Herve This teaching at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Molecular gastronomy entails a world beyond just regular cooking. Herve This formulated
molecular gastronomy back in 1988 with the first molecular gastronomist focusing mostly on food science (This, 2005).  Usual molecular gastronomy entail research into how cooking works, why certain techniques work, and how cooking affects the food (Humphries, 2012). Only in recent years, chefs now use molecular gastronomy to innovate in the culinary arts.

Modern chefs implement the science of food to create new ways to surprise and perfect food for their customers. When chefs make dishes, they also create an experience that is associated with the dish. By creating these experiences, chefs learn to invent and use new techniques to achieve the same or different results. Chefs use sous vide to create an easy way to cook meats to specific temperatures. Cold elements such as liquid nitrogen aid in creating fog effects and freezing substances. The techniques also fool customers into believing the chef’s transfiguration skills with food.

students
Students listen to a lecture on different molecules of food.

Molecular gastronomy diversifies the possible fields people can focus on in the culinary field. Countries like Denmark base a large part of their economy on molecular gastronomic research (Risbo et al., 2013). The agriculture sector heavily depends on molecular gastronomy to best process their food products for consumers and health. Many of the world’s best restaurants often are located in Europe as many European countries have embraced molecular gastronomy as a legitimate field. This also allows more people to immerse themselves in cooking in a different way that may feel more comfortable to them as cooking is more than just a hobby. Scientists spend lengthy amounts of time understanding the science of food, so chefs can innovate, and health professionals protect patients from food-borne illness.

In the field, molecular gastronomists range from scientists with PhDs to famous chefs. They all innovate the current scientific knowledge for entertainment and scientific advancement, and each innovation clarifies the myths in cooking. People often do not cook due to the ambiguous nature that cooking has, so molecular gastronomy will hopefully encourage more people to cook.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Herve This at Dublin Institute of Technology. Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Wikipedia, 2011. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

Humphries, Courtney. “Cooking: Delicious Science.” Nature 486.7403 (2012): S10-S11. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

Risbo, Jens, et al. “Culinary Science In Denmark: Molecular Gastronomy And Beyond.” Journal Of Culinary Science & Technology 11.2 (2013): 111-130. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.

Partensky, Peretz. Molecular Gastronomy. Digital image. Flickr. Yahoo, 3 Dec. 2008. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

This, Hervé. “Molecular Gastronomy.” Nature Materials 4.1 (2005): 5-7. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.