Spring Lecture Series Recap: Molecularizing Taste at the Intersection of Biochemistry and French Cuisine

Roosthlecture2by Marleena Eyre

Molecular gastronomy, a hot trend in the food world in recent years, tends to evoke either quizzical or enthusiastic looks from food nerds—including many of us who are in the BU Gastronomy program. Chefs Ferran Adrià of El Bulli, Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck, and Pierre Gagnaire of Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire come to mind as ringleaders who helped to popularize this movement of manipulating the molecular structure of food. Their restaurants often have long waitlists, with some reaching up to four years.

roosthThose curious to learn more, along with my Food and the Senses class (ML 715), attended Molecularizing Taste at the Intersection of Biochemistry and French Cuisine on April 22,2014. Presented by Sofia Roosth, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Harvard University, the lecture spotlighted taste and its relationship to science and culinary heritage.

Roosth, an anthropologist of science, spoke about the ethnographic research she performed in Paris, France on molecular gastronomy. She studied the work of Hervé This, a physical chemist and one of the founding fathers of food science, alongside his research assistants in his AgroParisTech lab, part of Institut National de la Recherche Agrnomique (INRA).

Originally known as molecular and physical gastronomy, molecular gastronomy debunks the how and why behind cooking. It is used in conjunction with technoscience, a term that Roosth defines as the combination of technology and science. Methods used to study the chemical compositions of foods include nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and thin-layer chromatography. 

RoosthLecture1Delving deeper into discovering the science behind food, This set out to improve the cooking and dining experience. He built off the works of Marie-Antoine Carême and Auguste Escoffier, who codified old wives’ tales in recipes to prove why they worked (or why they didn’t).

However, when brought into a restaurant, molecular gastronomy extends beyond the field of science and enters the realm of performance art. Typically, diners are presented with a multi-course menu where each dish builds off the previous to defy culinary conventions. The beauty behind the scientific approach to food is that each step of the cooking process can be analyzed, deconstructed to its elements, and applied to creating everything from foams made with lecithin or instant ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. Chefs manipulate diners’ senses, leaving them with a new perspective on the culinary arts.

 Manipulating food in the culinary world isn’t the only application of molecular gastronomy. Roosth mentioned that it could potentially be used to tackle food insecurity in developing countries as well. Many research centers around the world are using technoscience to create food products aimed at helping reverse this chronic issue.

 While ending world hunger is a huge feat in itself, molecular gastronomy can be used in a multitude of ways and will be here for some time.

Marleena Eyre is a second year Gastronomy student, an editorial intern at NoshOn.It, and blogs at The Flex Foodie. When she’s not studying or writing about food, she can be found paging through cookbooks at her local bookstores or sculling on the Charles River with her rowing team. She can be reached at marleenaeyre@gmail.com.

Spring Lecture Series Recap: Leading Between the Vines

By Ariel Knoebel

On April 17th, the Gastronomy Program was graced with the effervescent presence of Terry Theise, a renowned wine importer and German wine specialist. Theise is known for his holistic approach to wine and his advocacy for small-scale production. As he describes it, “small scale wine stirs the soul in a way organization wine cannot.” 

Fans of Theise’s notoriously colorful tasting notes, which forego traditional descriptors of fruit and oak to instead compare vintages to overeager dogs, seductive temptresses, and bolts of lightning, would have been pleased with the content of the evening. Theise casually spun stories throughout the presentation, conversing with the audience as if we were all old friends (probably because many in the front rows actually were), and speaking candidly and authoritatively on small-scale wine production without abandoning his signature flare for language. Of course, the poetics did not stop with the main event: a screening of his impressionistic film, Leading Between the Vines.  

Theise introduced his film as a “love letter to the German Riesling culture,” a fitting description for this careful portrait of small growers along the Rhine River and the wines they so painstakingly produce. The film runs just under an hour, and introduces viewers to a series of family owned wineries and the people that keep them alive. It explores identity, authenticity, and heritage through the lens of terroir to portray how authentic wines connect flavor to soil, people to land, generations to each other, and each family to a larger culture. Like a good glass of wine, the film united its consumers to the vineyard in a way beyond the superficial, and allowed the audience a look into the realities—good and bad—of the beautiful world of wine production.

When asked about his objective for the film, Theise explained that he was hoping people would walk away thinking, “I don’t know much about wine, but that sure seems like a meaningful way to live a life.” Certainly, the stories shared by the film’s winemakers and the passion they clearly held for their work, set against the breathtaking backdrop of centuries old vineyards and a carefully selected soundtrack, left viewers with a new appreciation for the love inside each bottle. As the film says, “the love you give to the vines, they give you back.” 

Ariel Knoebel is a first year student of the Gastronomy program. When she isn’t planning her next meal, Ariel can be found perfecting her handstand, reading at her favorite coffee shop, or seeking out dogs to pet on the Esplanade.  

TEDxManhattan Viewing Party

Screen shot 2014-02-24 at 4.16.31 PMTED talks have taken the world by storm as they bring together professionals and amateurs alike, to talk about big ideas.

This Saturday, March 1, 2014, the Gastronomy Students Association would like to invite you to a viewing party of TEDxManhattan’s: Changing the Way We Eat. They will be streaming the conference live and would love for you to join the conversation about our changing food world.

For details about the viewing party, check out the Events Page.
For more information about TEDxManhattan and the conference, you can visit their website at tedxmanhattan.org

Food Photography Workshop with Nina Gallant

Photo by Nina Gallant
Photo by Nina Gallant

by Audrey Reid

We all love drooling over those stunning pictures of food in magazines and online. Don’t deny it, you are reading a food blog, of course you love to look at food. Well, it is people like Nina Gallant that we have to thank for appeasing our delightful addiction. Nina is a food photographer. She has a knack for revealing the truth of a dish. Like a sculpture, it is what it is, but finding the right way to portray it takes time, talent, and vision.

Photo by Nina Gallant
Photo by Nina Gallant

Nina’s family has always been in the food business. So intimidatingly so, that she left Massachusetts to pursue a more artistic outlet at The Cooper Union School of Art in New York. Nevertheless, no matter how much she thought she was escaping the family profession, her work always seemed to return to themes of food and hospitality. It wasn’t until she was working as a photographer’s assistant on a food shoot, though, that she had her great ‘aha’ moment to become a food photographer. Since then, she has opened her own brick-and-mortar studio in Allston, working on cookbooks, food product packaging, and the occasional portrait.

Nina recently joined the Boston University community to share her skills with eager students and community members. This spring, she is leading a workshop on the essentials of food photography through the BU Metropolitan College Program of Food, Wine & the Arts. Following the four week course, which meets on Saturdays in April and May, students will be comfortable using their cameras on manual and editing their photos in Photoshop Elements. To be a good photographer, you must be able to see the end result and know how to overcome your limitations to get there. This is where Nina comes in.

Photo by Nina Gallant
Photo by Nina Gallant

Nina’s goal is to find students who want to learn how to use their cameras as more than a point-and-shoot, and those who want to learn the finer techniques of capturing the perfect food shot, and transform them into confident, capable food photographers. During the first two weeks, Nina will teach students how to maximize the use of their camera’s settings, frame a shot, and to manipulate and enhance photos in Photoshop Elements. The third week will be an adventure into the field to learn about taking photographs of foods as you might normally encounter them. The last session will be a day of eating and photo sharing. Each student will have chosen a dish or meal to photograph at home and will display their creative vision in a mini art show. The more you do, the easier it gets. So yes, there will be homework, but only the fun kind.

This amazing workshop is for photographers of every experience level who wish for a little guidance in their practice and are seeking that ‘aha’ moment where everything clicks into place.

For more information about dates, requirements, and pricing, please visit the Program of Food, Wine & Arts website.
To see more of Nina’s work, visit her website at ninagallant.com

Audrey Reid is president of the Gastronomy Students Association, manager of the Gastronomy at BU blog, and in her final semester of the Gastronomy Program. She has a BS in Chemistry, is a graduate of the Culinary Arts Program, and is earning her MLA with a concentration in Food Policy.

Career Advice on Food Writing and Culinary Tourism

by Carlos Olaechea

There’s no doubt that Gastronomy students have a passion for food, but sometimes it helps to have some professional insight into how we can turn that passion into a career.  With many of our peers taking advantage of Boston Globe dining editor Sheryl Julian’s food writing class, and increased interest in visiting places for their food and beverages as much as their sights, a career in food writing and culinary tourism is on the minds of many students.  On Thursday, February 6th, 2014, the BU Gastronomy Students Association hosted a discussion panel that addressed those career paths.  The event featured Catherine Smart and Peggy Hernandez, both reporters for the Boston Globe’s dining section, as well as Lauren Cicione, who organizes wine tours in Italy for connoisseurs.

Catherine Smart is a graduate of the BU Gastronomy Master’s program, and, when she is not submitting articles to the Globe, she is working hard as a personal chef.  As most writing gigs are freelance and don’t provide a steady source of income, Smart says it’s a good idea to have another job.  She is thrilled with her personal chef business, which she finds both enjoyable and lucrative, and recommends students take the Culinary Arts Laboratory if they wish to follow in her footsteps.

Smart also advises that persistence and networking are key in developing a career in food writing, with which Peggy Hernandez couldn’t agree more.  A longtime Globe veteran, Hernandez began her career as a news reporter covering “crime and grime” in the late 80s and early 90s before her husband’s job had them moving abroad.  Upon returning to the US, Hernandez began freelancing for the Globe’s dining section and is known for her in-depth coverage of food trends. Both Hernandez and Smart strongly advise writers to join networking sites such as Muck Rack and LinkedIn to help brand themselves as serious writers.

Lauren Cicione got her start in culinary tourism quite by accident.  Working in the New York City art world, she was no stranger to wining and dining.  Once the recession hit, the market for fine art dwindled, and Cicione decided that a sojourn in Italy would be ideal.  It was there that she befriended small wine producers in Piedmont and Tuscany, and, before long, had an exclusive business organizing Italian wine tours for the most discerning connoisseurs.

Like Smart and Hernandez, Cicione says that networking is key, as the majority of her clients are referred to her by word-of-mouth.  She also says that it is important to do your research when planning to start a business: look at your competitors to see what they’re doing and how much they’re charging, and don’t forget that your time and knowledge are valuable.  Beware of selling yourself short, while you want to be reasonable, you have to keep in mind that you are offering your talents and, especially to those in the Gastronomy program, your educational background.

The best news is, there are many people who are willing to help you along the way.  Professors are a great resource to help launch your career, and many people are more than happy to offer their assistance or advice.

For those who missed the panel discussion, a digital recording is available on request by emailing gastronomyatbu@gmail.com.

Catherine Smart
Lauren Cicione

Carlos Olaechea was born in Peru and spent most of his life in Miami, FL before moving to Boston for the gastronomy program.  He was the dining columnist for his college newspaper and the Miami dining editor for Joonbug.com

Spring Lecture Series Recap: The History of Gentleman Farming in Los Angeles County

Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 5.38.31 PM

By Ty Robinson

Last week, the Gastronomy Department hosted its first guest lecture of the season. Laura Barraclough presented a talk entitled “Cultivating Whiteness: Gentleman Farming as Settler Colonialism in Los Angeles.” Barraclough is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race and Migration at Yale University.

Her engaging lecture started with a brief history of what “gentleman farming” is and how it became a part of the American lifestyle, especially in the Los Angeles, CA area. Gentleman farming is a practice in which landowners engage in agribusiness but do not depend on it for a living. It is typically practiced by upper-class, white families as a means of providing additional income to the household. Barraclough’s research compared two suburban regions of Los Angeles and found that, while gentleman farming was originally a driving force behind the purchase of larger home lots, it was never a realistic means of supplemental income as the businessmen who purchased the lots had no previous farming experience. The region of Shadow Hills became largely equestrian as farms were turned into stables thereby increasing property value.

Once Barraclough had discussed suburban gentleman farming, she shifted her talk to urban farming. She talked about the history of the South Central Farm in Los Angeles and its subsequent destruction in 2006. The South Central Farm, founded to help cultivate food for those in poverty, provided a modern day example of urban farming. Barraclough made the important distinction that, while historically, gentleman farming was dominated by white upper class men and women, the farmers who worked the South Central Farm were primarily lower class Hispanics.

The historically high cost of homes in the Los Angeles suburbs, that were originally designed for gentleman farming, are still dominated by white upper class families. Whereas, the families who are farming in urban Los Angeles areas today are primarily Hispanics living below the poverty line. Using these points, Barraclough concludes that the racial divide between suburban and urban Los Angeles stems from historically high property costs and the history of gentleman farming.

Questions after the talk were diverse and provoked a lively discussion amongst the audience. Topics ranged from why she chose her subject and how she did her research, to a discussion of urban farming in Boston and how things could have been done differently if the organizers of the South Central Farm had been white. She answered each question with a lighthearted attitude that was constant throughout the presentation.

To get a more in depth view of the South Central Farm, Barraclough suggested the movie “The Garden.”

Ty Robinson is in his second semester of the Gastronomy program. He works at The Wine Emporium in the South End (Columbus Ave. location) and his focus is on all things related to wine, beer, and spirits. 

Welcome to the Program, Shall We Start in the Kitchen?

Photo by Chris Maggiolo

By Sarah McKeen

Maybe it was the wine or the fact that Boston decided to bless us with a rare evening above freezing. Regardless, the warmth was felt all around on the evening of January 13. Orientation for all incoming Gastronomy students began at 5 pm with an introduction by Professor Rachel Black who promised to keep the “boring” information to a minimum. She spoke for about an hour on BU basics and housekeeping matters, as well as provided a brief overview of some of the offerings of the Gastronomy program, which included classes, outside lectures, social gatherings, and volunteer opportunities. Needless to say, no one was “bored” with the forthcoming excitement of being a part of this quest for food knowledge. We were, however, all eager to get into the kitchen to make a delicious meal.






Photos by Chris Maggiolo

Led by a team of current students, us newbies were divided into groups to prepare various components of the meal. The three groups consisted of a kale pesto and sausage pasta team; an arugula, blood orange, and avocado salad team; and a chocolate-dipped coconut macaroon team. We all donned our aprons, rolled up our sleeves, and dug our hands into fresh ingredients to prepare the feast. The various aromas coming from each corner of the kitchen mingled in the air above as the new students got to know each other. About one hour later, the salad was piled high atop a fanning bed of avocado, the pasta was steaming in a bowl fit for an army, and the macaroons were perfectly coated with shiny chocolate.

Photo by Chris Maggiolo
Photo by Chris Maggiolo

We all came together at a long table in the kitchen classroom, set with wine and sparkling water. Plates were filled with the scrumptious offerings as students continued to share their stories of how they came to join the Gastronomy program. Joined by not only Rachel Black, but also Netta Davis, Barbara Rotger, and many current students, the new students delighted in hearing about classes, research projects, and personal stories. As conversations shifted from hometown to current jobs, the wine slowly depleted and belts grew a little tighter. Professor Black led us in a toast to the successful meal and the excitement of our future successes in and outside of the classroom. The evening meandered to a close and the students parted ways with both their minds and stomachs excited for what the next two years have to offer.

Sarah McKeen is a Boston native who has studied Gastronomy at BU since 2014. Her focus is on entrepreneurship, technology, and culinary tourism.

Photo by Chris Maggiolo
Photo by Chris Maggiolo