Mmm… Food

The Chemistry of Cooking
January 14, 2009, 2:38 pm
Filed under: Random Facts

On Monday, I attended a guest lecture/presentation at the Chicago Cultural Center entitled “The Chemistry of Cooking”  as part of Ars Scienta a New Series of presentations and panel discussions about the crossovers between the worlds of science and art.   It featured Chef Homaru Cantu who runs Moto restaurant here in Chicago, as well as Linda Suzu Kawano the V.P. of Cantu Designs(a separate food technology business of Chef Cantu) and Chuck Valsuskas, the IP Patent Attorney for the Cantu enterprise. 

The lecture while entertaining was a little disappointing. I blame part of that on the mixed nature of any public event and the inability of a presenter to be overly technical for fear of alienating part of their audience. However… where the blurb that got me interested stated “Learn how Chef Cantu and his partner at Cantu Designs, scientist Dr. Linda Kawano collaborate, share ideas and meld science, art and business.” it felt at time like Chef had forgotten this as the goal and instead embarked on a mini-presentation of plating his foodstuffs, with some explanation of how an item is prepared. Don’t get me wrong. It’s cool to watch and you want that inside opinion of the Chef designing your food. But much of what he presented felt like it was just a preview of eating at his restaurant. In some ways it dulled the excited of wanting to go to his restaurant and seeing in person the tricks that I already the inside info on. I didn’t care about any dish in particular. I wanted to know how he was inspired. How he uses science to manipulate food into something we haven’t seen before. I wanted to hear more about process not product.

Dr. Linda Kawano did give an interesting presentation on taste buds and receptors that have led to the recognition of a fifth taste, known as “umami” described as deliciousness, but we were left hanging when Chef made no tie into his use of umami, or anything that seemingly related to Dr. Kawano’s lecture.  I can only assume that they prepared for this demonstration completely independently with no communication between the two.  😦

The high point of attending the lecture may be the knowledge that this series exists and there are more lectures to come.  More topics that look interesting, such as “Environmentalism” which has presenters talking about turning City Parks into climate change laboratories,  or Biology and Genetics and the concept of “Bio-Art” and things like  a glowing fluorescent bunny.  I’ll be coming back for more.  It may not all be food related, but it’s right up my alley, and I want more!!!


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