Sandbox Lecture Series 2020 draft 2

2021 Science and Cooking Series celebrates culinary techniques to unlock flavors

Popular series pairs Harvard professors with chefs and food experts


This year’s Science and Cooking Public Lecture Series is a celebration of border-blurring, culinary crossovers, from Caribbean-influenced French and Italian cuisine to a Thai take on traditional Indian recipes. And with a remote format via Zoom, this 11th iteration of the lecture series gives viewers a front-row seat to watch some of the world’s best chefs showcase unexpected flavors and unique techniques.

Cepa condensada sopa de cebolla
The plate "Condensed strain" which uses the enzyme pectinase to make an onion with a “cooked” texture and raw flavor. The dish is a take on french onion soup by the team at Mugaritz, one of the speakers in this year’s series.

New presenters this year include Nina Compton (Compère Lapin, New Orleans), Lois Ellen Frank (Red Mesa Cuisine, Native American Cooking), Garim Arora (Gaa Restaurant, Bangkok, Thailand), Andoni Aduriz and Ramon Perisé (Mugaritz, Spain), Marike van Beurden (Master Chocolatier and Pastry Chef) as well as returning favorites José Andrés, Harold McGee, Dave Arnold, and Joanne Chang, A.B. ’91. 

The lectures pair Harvard professors with celebrated food experts and renowned chefs to showcase the science behind different culinary techniques. The series, organized by Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is based on the Harvard course “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter,” but public lectures do not replicate course content.

  • All talks will take place by Zoom; registration is required and you will be emailed with the Zoom link to join
  • Each presentation will begin with a 15-minute lecture about the scientific topics from that week’s class by a faculty member from the Harvard course
  • The lectures are free and open to the public
  • Mondays 7 p.m. EST, with a few exceptions to accommodate our speakers’ different time zones (see schedule).

If you have questions regarding the public lecture series, please contact


2020 Chef Lecture Dates

Monday, Sept. 7
“A Nose Dive into Kitchen Pyrolysis”
Zoom, 7 p.m EST
Dave Arnold (@CookingIssues), Existing Conditions, author of "Liquid Intelligence," host of "Cooking Issues," founder of the Museum of Food and Drink
Harold McGee (@Harold_McGee), author of "On Food and Cooking," "Curious Cook," and the forthcoming book "Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World's Smells."
What we saw: The two people in charge of inaugurating this new series were Harold Mcgee, author of “On Food and Cooking”, and one of the main pillars of this course, having written what is considered for most of the people the “bible” of Science and Cooking and Dave Arnold, author of “liquid intelligence” and founder of the Museum of food and Drink. This was a special talk because we had the honor to hear about Harold’s new book (Nose Dive: A field Guide to the World’s Smells) which has not been published yet and will be available in October. The book is about the story around the magic world of smells which along his pages it transports you to a sensory-filled adventure. He explained in the lecture how chemical elements are cooked up in stars and how he have a universe full of aromatic molecules. He came along with Dave Arnold who delighted us with some experimental science showing the difference between cooking with different materials and how heat transfer plays a key role when cooking.
Monday, Sept. 14
"The Science of Sugar"
Zoom, 7 p.m EST
Joanne Chang ’91 (@jbchang), Flour Bakery and Café, Myers + Chang, author of “Flour,” “Flour Too,” “Myers + Chang at Home,” and “Baking With Less Sugar”
What we saw: An honors graduate of Harvard College with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics, Joanne left a career as a management consultant to enter the world of professional cooking. After opening Flour Bakery at Harvard and being part of the Science and Cooking Public Lecture series for more than 8 years, Joanne came back to Harvard but this time from her home kitchen to give a talk about the science of sugar to an audience of more than 1800 attendees. Joanne showed us how she came up with the magic formula of sticky buns and how science can help us understand the role and functionality of ingredients in pastry making us better chefs. During the lecture, she made different demos showing the role of sugar in different desserts and demonstrating that sugar adds more value than just sweetness. She finished the lecture showing the different stages of sugar and how temperature plays an important role when playing with texture.
Monday, Sept. 21
"Fermenting Brains. A Journey to Mugaritz microworld"
Zoom, 3 p.m EST
Andoni Luis Aduriz (@andoniluisaduriz), chef/owner of the two Michelin star restaurant Mugaritz, top 10 of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Ramon Perisé,Director of Fermentation and R&D at Mugaritz, Spain
Register for "Fermenting Brains. A Journey to Mugaritz microworld"
Monday, Sept. 28   
“The Equation for Gnocchi”
Zoom, 7 p.m EST
Nina Compton (@ninacompton), James Beard winning Saint Lucian chef, chef/owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater Bistro in New Orleans, Louisiana
Register for "The Equation for Gnocchi"
Monday, Oct. 12                              
“Culinary Ash in Contemporary Native American Cuisine”
Zoom, 7 p.m EST
Lois Ellen Frank (@lois_ellen_frank), New Mexico-based chef, author, Native food historian, “Native American with a modern twist,” Red Mesa Cuisine, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Register for “Culinary Ash in Contemporary Native American Cuisine”
Monday, Oct. 19
“Honorary Book Celebration Lecture”
Zoom, 7 p.m EST
Jose Andrés (@chefjoseandres), Think Food Group, minibar, Jaleo
Register for “Honorary Book Celebration Lecture”
Monday, Oct. 26
“Viscosity, Pastry and Chocolate”
Zoom, 2 p.m EST
Marike van Beurden (@marikevanbeurden) Pastry Chef and Master Chocolatier, Dutch Chocolate Master 2013, 2nd World Chocolate Master 2013
Register for “Viscosity, Pastry and Chocolate”
Monday, Nov. 2
“Emulsions and Foams”
Zoom, 7 p.m EST
Monday, Nov. 9
"The Science of Indian Culinary Traditions"
Zoom, 7 p.m EST
Garima Arora (@arorgarima), first Indian woman to win a Michelin Star, Asia’s Best Female Chef 2019 by World’s 50 best, Restaurant Gaa, Bangkok, Thailand
Register for "The Science of Indian Culinary Traditions"

The Harvard College Course

The Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Alícia Foundation developed the General Education science course, “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter,” which debuted in the fall of 2010. The course uses food and cooking to explicate fundamental principles in applied physics and engineering. (Watch a video about the course.)

While limited to currently enrolled Harvard undergraduates, the class, which brings together eminent Harvard researchers and world-class chefs, is available to others on-campus through the Harvard Extension School and online through the HarvardX platform (details below).


  • Michael Brenner, Michael F. Cronin Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics and Professor of Physics; Harvard College Professor
  • Pia Sörensen, Senior Preceptor in Chemical Engineering and Applied Materials
  • David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics

Lab Design/Implementation

  • Pere Castells, Unitat UB-Bullipèdia

Lecture Coordinator

  • Patricia Jurado Gonzalez

Science and Cooking on HarvardX

In HarvardX’s “Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science,” top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine techniques illuminate scientific principles in physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering. Both part 1 and part 2 of the online course are currently open for enrollment.

STEAMeD Teacher Workshops

STEAMeD adapts exercises from the popular Science and Cooking course and Young Chefs to fit Massachusetts state science standards. It is a rare opportunity for highly motivated teachers to bring these exercises into their classrooms. Teachers, community program instructors, and after school program leaders are invited to register. More information is available on the STEAMeD website, where future workshops will also be announced


We are grateful to our sponsors


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1933 Signature



 Science and Cooking: 

Physics Meets Food, From Homemade to Haute Cuisine

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Science and Cook book cover

Based on the popular Harvard University and edX course, Science and Cooking explores the scientific basis of why recipes work.

The spectacular culinary creations of modern cuisine are the stuff of countless articles and social media feeds. But to a scientist they are also perfect pedagogical explorations into the basic scientific principles of cooking. In Science and Cooking, Harvard professors Michael Brenner, Pia Sörensen, and David Weitz bring the classroom to your kitchen to teach the physics and chemistry underlying every recipe.

Why do we knead bread? What determines the temperature at which we cook a steak, or the amount of time our chocolate chip cookies spend in the oven? Science and Cooking answers these questions and more through hands-on experiments and recipes from renowned chefs such as Christina Tosi, Joanne Chang, and Wylie Dufresne, all beautifully illustrated in full color. With engaging introductions from revolutionary chefs and collaborators Ferran Adria and José Andrés, Science and Cooking will change the way you approach both subjects―in your kitchen and beyond.

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