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Harvard is offering free lectures with all-star chefs that focus on science in the kitchen

The 2018 school year is officially underway, but you don’t have to be a wide-eyed undergrad to sit in on a Harvard lecture this semester.

The Science and Cooking Public Lecture Series has returned for its eighth year and is open to the general public (for free!), with some of the most prominent names in the culinary world joining Harvard professors to discuss the intersection of science and food.

The series kicked off on Sept. 10 and features a new lecture almost every Monday night through Dec. 3. Organized by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the series is based on the general education course “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter.”

Lectures range in topic from trends and heating techniques to the science of sugar. Upcoming talks will include James Beard Award-winning local chef Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery and Café and Myers + Chang on “The Science of Sugar” (Sept. 24), molecular gastronomy innovator Wylie Dufresne of Du’s Donuts and Coffee on “Going Down the Donut Hole…” (Oct. 24), and chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana, voted Best Restaurant in the World in 2018, on “Cooking Is a Call to Act” (Dec. 3).

“We try to look for people who are leaders in their fields,” said Pia Sörensen, who helps runs the series and is a preceptor in Chemical Engineering and Applied Materials at SEAS. “When the series started, it was very focused on haute cuisine and molecular gastronomy, and now we look at different angles. We also try to bring in different cultural and geographically diverse perspectives.”

One local expert sharing his expertise is Ayr Muir, founder and CEO of Clover Food Lab. He’ll lead a lecture called “Gluten vs. Fiber: Innovative Approaches to Baking More Flavorful Bread” on Oct. 1.

“Pia reached out to me to join, and I was really excited because I’ve been going since the first year [of the series],” Muir said. “My background is technical, so learning about food has always been done through a science lens for me.”

That said, Muir noted that the lectures aren’t technical in nature and any layperson can enjoy them.

“Food is the center of the important decisions we make each day — and the impact of those decisions are huge. Understanding that helps us make better decisions,” he said.

Each lecture will begin at 7 p.m. at the Harvard Science Center (1 Oxford St., Hall C, Cambridge) and start with a 15-minute talk from a faculty member. Seating is first come, first served, and always free. You can find a complete schedule for the series on Harvard’s website.


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