Thursday, September 20, 2012

The CIA Gets Scientific

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is beginning to incorporate chemistry and physics into its curriculum. Lectures now include the uses of xanthan gum, liquid nitrogen, and how to operate a centrifuge in order to separate ingredients.

The importance of knowing why a sauce should be finished with butter or why water and oil don't mix is emphasized in the CIA's newest bachelor of professional studies degree in Culinary Science, which requires courses such as Dynamics of Heat Transfer, Flavor Science and Perception, and Advanced Concepts in Precision Temperature Cooking.

Other schools are also recognizing the importance of science and its culinary applications. The International Culinary Center in New York City is now offering a course that concentrates of culinary technology such as the tools used for sous-vide cooking. The Food Science department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst began offering courses in culinary science five years ago to meet the demand of culinary students who wanted more of a science background for the job market.

"Today's chef compared to a chef 30 years ago needs to know so much more," CIA president Tim Ryan said recently. "The industry, the profession, is so much more complicated."

Chefs who pioneered the movement of this "modernist cuisine" include Grant Achatz (Alinea),  Ferran Adria (El Bulli), and Wylie Dufresne (wd-50).