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How science influences cooking

This week’s Science & Cooking World Congress in Barcelona discusses future of food from scientific point of view

One of the conferences held as part of the Science and Cooking World Congress in Barcelona, November 7, 2022
One of the conferences held as part of the Science and Cooking World Congress in Barcelona, November 7, 2022 / Maxime Van Cleven

Maxime Van Cleven | Barcelona

November 8, 2022 09:31 PM

November 8, 2022 09:33 PM

The Science & Cooking World Congress hosts its third edition at the University of Barcelona this week and is the first international congress to link science with the world of cooking by researching and sharing the scientific influence on today’s major food-related challenges.

For some, the link between the two fields might seem far-fetched or part of futuristic haute cuisine, when in reality, all cooking involves science. “Cooking is chemistry,” author and chemist Harold McGee told Catalan News on the opening day of the congress.

“Foods are made out of molecules,” the author known for his books combining the two fields explained. “We have learned a lot in the last 100 years or so about these molecules and why foods behave the way they do when we apply heat, add salt, or grow bacteria on them,” McGee added.

 

The congress gathers innovative minds in the world of cooking and science with different perspectives to reflect on the current state of the culinary world and discuss positive changes towards the future.

“I think we see our job as translators of the language of science into something that could be understood by everybody, which is what this congress does,” Chicago-based chef Fransisco Migoya explained to Catalan News.

Using different conferences, workshops and personal meetings that touch on topics related to this year’s slogan, ‘Ingredients, Tradition and Innovation’, the congress offers the attendees a chance to share their thoughts, research and developments with likeminded people.

Migoya sees the event as a great way to spread awareness in the culinary world. “When a chef understands what is happening when they are cooking and putting things together, they are able to think more critically and make better decisions combining tastes, which leads to better food,” said the author of multiple scientific cookbooks.

In addition to the organized talks and workshops, a special brunch took place on the first day of the congress. Innovative food and drink related brands lined up to present their products, and as this edition mainly focuses on sustainability and health, some of the tastes included vegan chocolate and cannabis cookies.

The University of Barcelona collaborated with Harvard University and 23 international delegations to make the event possible as part of their growing interest in the field. “As food structure is getting more gourmet, the need for academic structure to help out grows,” said congress organizer Pere Castells. 

The ideas on the future of cooking are presented in a personal manifesto, in which the organization expresses its desire to renew certain areas of the culinary world from a scientific viewpoint, wanting to become the sector’s main benchmark and inspiration.

For now, Migoya mostly talks about “baby steps” being taken at the congress, explaining that “it takes a long time to implement the things discussed at the event on a larger scale, as it takes big companies that deal with food and ingredients to make substantial changes that have a worldwide impact.”

The congress takes place in the Paranimf and in the Aula Magna of the University of Barcelona until this Wednesday, lining up with the Catalan capital’s Gastronomic Forum which focuses on innovation, science and sustainability.