Science and Cooking 2020

2020 Science and Cooking Lecture Series highlights bold flavors that break boundaries

Popular series pairs Harvard professors with chefs and food experts


WC: 766

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."
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”
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
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
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
Monday, Oct. 19
Honorary Book Celebration Lecture
Zoom, 3 p.m EST
Jose Andrés (@chefjoseandres), Think Food Group, minibar, Jaleo 
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
Monday, Nov. 2
The Science of Ice Cream
Zoom, 7 p.m EST
Dr. Maya Warren (@Maya.warren ) PhD, Ice Cream Scientist, International Ice Cream/Frozen Aerated Dessert Consultant
Monday, Nov. 9
"The Science of Indian Culinary Traditions"
Zoom, 8 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

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, President Science and Coking World Congress Barcelona

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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A challenge: Projects!

The task

  1. Study/explain in scientific terms some aspect of a recipe or culinary invention …
  2. Provide a solution to a culinary problem, explain in scientific terms why or how it solves the problem

How to get inspiration

  • Look in cookbooks
  • How could a food you eat every day be improved/altered?  Explain the underlying science.
  • How has a recipe changed over time, and how, as a result, has the underlying science of the recipe changed?
  • What is the underlying science in the chefs’ recipes? Recreate and study it / make an improved version

Submit your project by Dec 2nd to 

Best projects will receive book and apron!