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Science served on a plate

UTC’s Sum­mer School for “Culi­nary sci­ence” pro­pos­es that the par­tic­i­pants from all round the world dis­cov­er how the prin­ci­ples of chem­istry apply to French gas­tron­o­my and to ‘revis­it’ some of our great ‘clas­sics’ imple­ment­ing the lat­est devel­op­ments and tech­nolo­gies in agro-food sci­ences. The forth­com­ing 3rd edi­tion will take place July 17–28 at the UTC Daniel Thomas Inno­va­tion Centre. 

Dur­ing the two week inten­sive course, the atten­dees hear about new food­stuff tech­niques that stem from research work and learn how ‘cui­sine’ can be more health-friend­ly and bet­ter adapt­ed to spe­cif­ic diets pro­grammes. Prof. Claire Rossi, a UTC research sci­en­tist in charge of the major spe­cial­ty course on Inno­va­tion, food­stuffs. and agro-resources, launched this sum­mer school two year ago. “Our objec­tive is to pro­vide par­tic­i­pants with the nec­es­sary bases to sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly under­stand how culi­nary prepa­ra­tions are made and to have them apply their new knowl­edge direct­ly, ‘hands-on’.

On each day of the course, there are after­noon work­shops that prac­tice what is taught the­o­ret­i­cal­ly and learned in the morn­ing lec­tures. Fol­low­ing a review of what the sense of taste entails and the role of var­i­ous types of food­stuff ingre­di­ents from a chem­i­cal point of view, there are var­i­ous exper­i­men­ta­tions. Pro­posed sub­sti­tu­tions for sug­ar, fat and/or gluten are one of the high­lights of the course. 

The process­es are applied to clas­si­cal recipes from French tra­di­tion­al ‘cui­sine’ and are adapt­ed to com­ply with the most recent trends. Demon­stra­tions and advice are giv­en by a qual­i­fied ‘chef’, blend­ing the rules of kitchen arts and tech­nol­o­gy. Exam­ples are a sug­ar ‑free cholate cake or may­on­naise with twice less oil (in the ear­li­er edi­tions), this year’s tar­gets include, notably a veg­an ‘vacherin’ cake with no ani­mal-sourced ingre­di­ents. Also as in the ear­li­er edi­tions, there will be week-end out­ings to allow the par­tic­i­pants to take in and appre­ci­ate France’s culi­nary and cul­tur­al her­itage. A wine-tast­ing out­ing will be orga­nized to a cham­pagne ‘cave’.

Participants from round the world

Ever since this Sum­mer School exist­ed, the for­mu­la has been found attrac­tive to stu­dents from a vari­ety of back­grounds. Moti­va­tions and lev­el of skills vary too. “In 2015 and 2016, we wel­comed lots of Asian par­tic­i­pants who were attract­ed by the pres­tige of French cul­ture and gas­tron­o­my and also par­tic­i­pants with spe­cial­ties far removed from food sci­ences”, explains course organ­is­er Prof. Rossi. 

The high repute of the French agro-food sec­tor – first investor in R&D in France and a leader in world rank­ing is also an advan­tage. More and more appli­cants already have high-lev­el skills and are seek­ing to com­plete their per­son­al knowl­edge base. The qual­i­ty of the ped­a­gogy used and the con­crete and user-friend­ly atmos­phere of the work­shops meet with unan­i­mous approval. Math­an Gold­stein, an Israeli PhD stu­dent in biol­o­gy attend­ed the 2016 ses­sion out of per­son­al inter­est: “I found the sum­ma­ry expla­na­tions on the var­i­ous forms of starch and the ways to replace them very clear, and since attend­ing this Sum­mer School, I cook my dish­es differently”. 

For Char­lotte Ver­schaeren, study­ing nutri­tion and food sci­ences in Bel­gium, to com­plete her knowl­edge-base, there were also many dis­cov­er­ies in then course: “The var­ied for­mu­lae for the famous choco­late moelleux’ cake with­out any fat­ty ingre­di­ents using sea­weed was a rev­o­lu­tion inas­much as the taste is iden­ti­cal. I think sea­weed can expect a great future from an indus­tri­al stand­point but also for kitchen uses at home”. Year in year out, the pro­gramme, enti­tled “Culi­nary sci­ence for tasti­er and health­i­er food” has an ever-increas­ing audi­ence. For the 2017 Edi­tion, there will be thir­teen par­tic­i­pants from four dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Also this year and for the first time, there will be atten­dees for the adven­ture com­ing from the entre­pre­neur­ial world. 

Le magazine

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