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Why Chefs and Scientists Should Work Together

MAD head of research Arielle Johnson argues that there is "still a strong mutual distrust between scientists and chefs."


Though chefs are embracing science more now than ever before, MAD head of research Arielle Johnson argues that a persistent gap remains between the two fields. She writes in a post on Mad Feed that there is "still a strong mutual distrust between scientists and chefs," adding that the "two sides haven't fully realized their potential for collaboration." Johnson compares the relationship between chefs and scientists to that between chefs and farmers and believes it is essential" for the continued advancement of the craft of cooking and "improving the place of food in the world."

[F]ood science literacy has never been higher.

Johnson acknowledges that now more than ever cooking has become integrated: Prominent chefs have reached out to the scientific community for answers to their questions, and academic institutions like Harvard and NYU have partnered with chefs to "teach chemistry and physics, applying key scientific concepts to culinary systems." In effect, "food science literacy has never been higher."

However, while scientists are involved in applying scientific techniques to the kitchen, chefs are not typically involved in the "production of the research that they use." Thus, currently, research is very rarely shaped by the questions that chefs ask and therefore not necessarily all that applicable in the kitchen. Scientific research requires "a certain kind of technical precision and adherence to form" that also makes it not so useful for the kitchen. Plus, Johnson points out, chefs and scientists both have huge egos that can make communication and the sharing of knowledge difficult.

Essentially, to improve the future of food, scientists must be more flexible in how they apply the scientific method to their research so that it can further advance kitchen techniques and nutrition. And chefs need to invest more time in their relationships with scientists to help shape the future of research.

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