One of the many beautiful things about living in the same city as UCLA is that, every spring in recent years, some of the most amazing food people show up on the campus to participate in Professor Amy Rowat's Science and Food Series. In 2012, it was David Chang and Rene Redzepi; last year it was Alex Atala and Christina Tosi and Alice Waters. And now UCLA has announced this year's lineup, which includes Wylie Dufresne, Ole Mouritsen, Lena Kwak and L.A.'s own Morihiro Onodera.
The Science and Food series is an outgrowth of Rowat's UCLA course; it was started here at UCLA after she pioneered a similar series at Harvard. And this is not your normal lecture series but a lively and sometimes downright strange collection of talks, demonstrations, food sampling and discussions. Redzepi, the chef at Noma in Copenhagen, once handed out Chinese takeout cartons of cricket sauce. Momofuku's David Chang gave his own version of a TED Talk, with sampling of powdered MSG (or at least that's what he said it was). In other words, you will not be bored. And you may get dinner, too.
This year's series kicks off on April 23 with "The Science of Sushi," by Ole Mouritsen and chef Morihiro Onodera. Mouritsen is professor of molecular biophysics at the University of Southern Denmark and the author of many books on sushi, seaweed and umami. Onodera, you'll remember, is the former chef-owner of Mori Sushi here in Los Angeles, now a master ceramicist and lately the owner of a rice farm in Uruguay.
On May 14, "How We Taste" features Dana Small, Wylie Dufresne and Peter Meehan. Dufresne is the chef-owner of wd~50 in Manhattan; Small is professor of psychiatry at Yale University; and Meehan is a writer and editor for Lucky Peach, as well as co-author of the Momofuku cookbook.
And on June 1, Dave Arnold and Lena Kwak will discuss "Harnessing Creativity (and the Science of Pie)." Arnold is the founder of the Museum of Food and Drink in New York; chef Lena Kwak is co-founder and president of Cup4Cup. In addition to their talk, students from Rowat's course will participate in a bake-off, presenting the apple pies they've been researching (and baking) in a large-scale tasting. (This should sound happily familiar to anyone who went to last year's pie talk with Christina Tosi and Zoe Nathan.) This event will close with an Iron Chef–style discussion of the winning pies, featuring the keynote speakers as well as local chefs, food critics and scientists.
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Events are open to the public; tickets are $25 general admission, $5 for students. They're available now through UCLA's Central Ticket Office. Visit www.scienceandfood.org for updates or to sign up for the "Science and Food" mailing list, and follow the latest developments on Twitter @scienceandfood.