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Physics and Cooking' lecture on Feb. 9 uncovers secrets of top chefs

February 6, 2012

Do you want to understand how (and why) food foams are made or why the elasticity of steak matters? Why do some chefs use liquid nitrogen (at about -320 degrees F) to freeze ingredients?

You can find out the answers to these and other intriguing questions at an upcoming public lecture sponsored by the University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, Tate Laboratory of Physics, 116 SE. Church St., Minneapolis.

The lecture by Harvard University Professor David Weitz is inspired by understanding the science of pioneering approaches to preparation and presentation of food at several famous restaurants. His talk will present some examples of physics and science of cooking and will include demonstrations. The lecture will explore the science of several innovative techniques in cooking, including foams and use of gelation, as well as more common processes.

The examples are based on an introductory science course, "Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter," offered at Harvard University by Weitz and a team of top international chefs, including Ferran Adrià, founder of the Alícia Foundation. The course explores a new way of motivating interest in science and teaching it to non-scientists. The theme of the course is the connections between cooking, soft matter physics, materials science, and organic chemistry.

Weitz received his Ph.D. from Harvard. He worked at Exxon Research and Engineering as a research physicist for nearly 18 years, then became a physics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a professor of physics and applied physics and the director of Harvard's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Weitz is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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