(Associated Press) CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Dan Barber’s culinary skills have earned him a James Beard “Outstanding Chef” award. The food at his New York restaurant Blue Hill also was the centerpiece for a Manhattan date night between President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Yet it’s his focus on cultivating flavor before foodstuffs even reach his kitchen that put him in an unusual setting recently.
Trading his chefs whites for a loosened tie and sport coat, Barber stood in the well of a Harvard University science hall, delivering a guest lecture as part of the hottest course on campus this fall: Physical Universe 27, or, “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.”
As part of the course, top chefs from around the world, including the current master of the gastronomic universe, Ferran Adria, chef/owner of Spain’s famed elBulli restaurant, have attempted to explain how physics and other sciences influence their cooking.
They’ve also shown that their cooking, in Adria’s case often labeled “molecular gastronomy,” can illustrate scientific feats such as spherification, gelation and oxidation. One of Adria’s signature dishes is warm – but, seemingly miraculously, not melted – ice cream. His trick is the additive methylcellulose, a gum which solidifies when it warms rather than cools.
Not exactly a pantry staple. And that’s sort of the point. Read more.