Last month, Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences kicked off a culinary lecture series called the very straight-forward Science & Cooking Lecture Series. The series began on Sept. 7 with Ferran Adria, Jose Andres and food writer Harold McGee. Since then, students and curious members of the general public have piled in for the hour-long sessions covering everything from sous-vide cooking with Joan Roca to "Olive Oil and Viscosity" with Carles Tejedor. Now, it's Alinea Chef Grant Achatz's turn.
On Monday, Achatz will step behind the podium for his lecture, "Reinventing Food Texture and Flavor." The award-winning chef will actually hold two sessions, one for about 800 people from the general public on Oct. 11 and a more intimate student-only session for about 350 people the following day. Achatz told Eater Chicago the Harvard folks want him to speak for a little more than an hour and he will be "talking on a wide variety of subjects dealing with texture manipulation and flavor combinations."
Achatz plans to prepare two simple dishes on stage that "illustrate how we use technology and science in the kitchen." Starting with a video from Tokyo, he has broken down the lecture into sections, including Smell Memory, Texture Manipulation, Cocktails, Unusual Flavor Combinations, Sensation/Surprise, Flavor Bouncing, Inedible Things and Color Concept. For anyone who has eaten at Alinea, you know not to question how certain flavors work together. During the chat, Achatz discusses the fusing of ingredients like raspberry, goat milk and pistachio; shellfish and camomile; and prosciutto, passion fruit and zuta levana.
Achatz doesn't really consider this teaching, although he said if he were to teach a full-time class he'd simply call it Cooking 101—because we all can easily prepare food like he does. The lecture gives him an opportunity to simply explain to professors "what we do in the kitchen creatively" so they can "then identify what aspects of science that are relevant to focus on for the students." He does about eight to 10 public speaking engagements a year in different cities around the world, focusing on food as well as inspirational cancer-related talks. This trip marks his second time visiting Boston and has a growing list of restaurants he wants to explore, including O Ya, Craigie on Main and Oleana.
If you haven't snagged tickets to the lecture, don't hold your breath, as they fill up pretty fast. However, it will be streamed live online, so you can still get up close and personal ... with your computer.