HOST: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
PARTICIPANTS: Dave Arnold, Maxime Bilet, Owen Clark, Robin Dando, Wylie Dufresne, Rachel Dutton, Stuart Firestein, Najat Kaanache, Kent Kirshenbaum, Michael Laiskonis, Harold McGee, Amy Rowat, César Vega
PROGRAM DATE: Thursday, May 30, 2013

We’re bringing scientists of varied disciplines together with leaders in culinary innovation for a program that is part science lab, part cocktail dinatoire. This multi-course tasting program will showcase the potential for scientific discovery via gastronomic experimentation. It will be an extraordinary exploration of biology, chemistry, neuroscience, physics and more, illuminated by experimental cocktails and cutting-edge cuisine. Expect scintillating science, stimulating company, and a few surprises.

Doors open at 7 PM — 21 and over only.

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J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the chief creative officer of the Serious Eats family of websites, the largest independent food blog in the world. After graduating from MIT, he learned the craft of cooking the traditional way—working his way up from prep cook to chef at many of Boston’s top restaurants including No. 9 Park and Clio. He spent the next three years as an editor at Cook’s Illustrated Magazine in Brookline, MA, where he produced some of the most innovative recipes the magazine has printed, as well as cohosting several episodes of the public television show America’s Test Kitchen. He currently resides in Harlem, New York with his wife and dogs where he pens the “Food Lab” column for Serious, dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of home cooking with science. He is the co-author of Serious Eats: A Comprehensive Guide To Making and Eating Delicious Food Wherever You Are, published by Clarkson-Potter, and the author of the upcoming The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, to be published by W. W. Norton in 2014.



In 2004, Dave Arnold founded the Museum of Food and Drink in New York to promote learning about the history and culture of food. In 2005, The International Culinary Center, home of The French Culinary Institute, tapped him to head its new culinary technology department until 2013. Most recently, Arnold and Momofuku have partnered to create a new company called Booker and Dax. Headed by Arnold and his team, Booker and Dax will create new equipment for use in the food sciences. In addition, Arnold transformed Momofuku Ssam Bar into the tech-heavy cocktail lounge, Booker and Dax at Ssam.

Arnold is Food Arts magazine’s contributing editor for equipment and food science. He writes equipment and book reviews as well as feature articles, including one on molecular gastronomy which was submitted by Food Arts for a 2007 James Beard Foundation Award. He frequently lectures at leading industry conferences including The National Restaurant Show, and at colleges around the country including Harvard University. Arnold has been covered in several publications, including Food & Wine, The Economist, and Popular Science; his own high-tech kitchen was featured in New York Magazine.

Chef, Author

Maxime Bilet is the co-author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, which received the 2012 Book of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ Visionary Achievement, among many other awards. He is also the co-author and of Modernist Cuisine at Home.

For six years, he was the director of culinary arts and sciences at The Cooking Lab, housed within Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures Lab in Seattle. He led the research and development for all projects related to The Cooking Lab, as well as conceptualizing and overseeing the unique photography and aesthetic of both books. He and his work have also appeared in television programs, including The Martha Stewart Show, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods, Top Chef Seattle, and the History Channel’s Modern Marvels. Forbes named him one of the top “30 under 30” in the food and wine industry in 2011, and Scoffier one of the best emerging chefs of that year.


Owen Clark is the executive chef at Gwynnett St., where he started as sous chef on the opening team. Clark has cooked in New York City for seven years. Starting his culinary career in a family style Italian restaurant, he decided to enter a culinary program in Boulder at the Culinary School of the Rockies. The degree helped him land an apprenticeship in the elite Michelin two-starred L’Oustau d’Baumaniere in Les Baux- de- Provence, France. Clark then earned another apprenticeship in Europe at The Fat Duck in Bray, England. The restaurant was rated the best in the world by Restaurant Magazine. From there he was invited to cook at WD-50 in New York City‘s Lower East Side. He spent two years rising through the ranks and learning more than he ever thought possible about flavor pairings, technique, and modern styles of cuisine. After leaving WD-50, Clark was attracted to Blue Hill restaurant for its seasonality and emphasis on sustainable ingredients. He worked for two years with Dan Barber, a James Beard award winner and one of Time Magazine’s 50 most influential people of 2009.


Robin Dando, originally from the UK, is a professor at Cornell University. His lab studies the neurotransmitter interactions and signaling events that occur within the mammalian taste system. Our sense of taste is one of the strongest drives that we possess, and is inexorably linked to emotions, memories, and our quality of life. It is one of our richest senses, and yet remains probably the most poorly understood. Taste consists of many complex events which take a simple receptor activation in the tongue to a rich and emotional response such as that elicited by our favorite foods. As yet little is known about the true nature or depth of these interactions. His research utilizes techniques from neuroscience, molecular biology, and behavioral science to probe the mammalian taste system. Dando is currently investigating how obesity, the preeminent health concern of our time, interacts with our taste system, and thus influences the food that we select.


Wylie Dufresne opened WD-50 (named for the chef’s initials and the street address) in April of 2003, on Clinton Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. His partners in the venture are Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and restaurateur Phil Suarez. Frank Bruni of the New York Times awarded WD-50 three stars in March of 2008. In 2006, in the Michelin Guide’s inaugural American edition, WD-50 received one star, which it has retained in each subsequent year.

Dufresne studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York and was then employed at Jo Jo’s from 1994 to 1997. He was hired to work on the opening of Jean Georges, eventually becoming the sous chef. In 1998, Dufresne was hired as chef de cuisine at Vongerichten’s Prime in The Bellagio, Las Vegas. In 1999, he left Prime to become the first chef at 71 Clinton Fresh Food, a 30-seat restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In May of 2007, Dufresne was conferred with an honorary doctorate degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University.


Rachel Dutton, Ph.D. is a Bauer fellow at the Harvard University Center for Systems Biology. After receiving her Ph.D. in microbiology from Harvard Medical School, she founded her own lab with the mission of using cheese as a way to understand microbial ecosystems. Cheese is home to a fascinating assortment of microbes; from bacteria, yeasts, and molds, to microscopic mites. These microbes all play an important role in making cheese a delicious and diverse food. Her lab is studying cheeses from around the world, and looking at how cheese microbes interact with each other to form communities. In addition, the lab is collaborating with chefs David Chang and Dan Felder of Momofuku, and cheesemakers at Jasper Hill Farm to develop fermented foods using native microbes. Research from the Dutton lab has been featured in Lucky Peach Magazine, The Mind of a Chef TV series on PBS, The Boston Globe, NPR, and The New York Times.


Stuart Firestein is the chair of Columbia University’s department of biological sciences where, along with his colleagues, he studies the vertebrate olfactory system, possibly the best chemical detector on the face of the planet. Aside from its molecular detection capabilities, the olfactory system serves as a model for investigating general principles and mechanisms of signaling and perception in the brain.

Dedicated to promoting the accessibility of science to a public audience, Firestein serves as an advisor for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s program for the public understanding of science. He received the Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award for excellence in scholarship and teaching. He is a fellow of the AAAS. Recently he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for science writing. His book on the workings of science for a general audience called Ignorance, How it Drives Science was released in 2012.


After rapidly rising through the ranks of some of the world’s finest restaurants, Najat Kaanache “The Pilgrim Chef” continues to demonstrate her culinary skills not only with her creative restaurant concept but also with her tireless passion for culinary innovation, education, and clean food advocacy.

Kaanache worked in the kitchens of Rene Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen, Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa and Per Se in New York City, and Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in Spain. While at the El Bulli, Kaanache seized the opportunity to learn creative freedom from Ferran Adrià which provided her the resources and ambition to create her own spectacular style of artistic Basque-Moroccan cuisine. In February of 2013, Kaanache established her own world-class restaurant in Dallas, Texas. To date, the most prestigious of Kaanache’s recognitions was her recent invitation to prepare a magical dinner at the James Beard House in 2013. She has traveled the globe to teach national level seminars on the juxtaposition of science and the culinary world from Limassol, Cyprus to Sydney, Australia and has collaborated with White House executive pastry chef, Bill Yosses, to deliver dynamic presentations for Harvard University’s “Science and Cooking” program and NYU’s “Experimental Cuisine Collective”.


Kent Kirshenbaum was born in San Francisco and raised amidst fog and hippies. He studied chemistry at Reed College and then obtained a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical chemistry from the University of California, San Francisco. Following postdoctoral studies at Caltech, Kirshenbaum joined the faculty at New York University, where he is an associate professor of chemistry. His research explores biomimetic chemistry and macromolecular design. His laboratory pursues new antibiotics and cancer therapeutics. Kirshenbaum cofounded the Experimental Cuisine Collective in 2007 with Amy Bentley and Will Goldfarb. Television appearances include Food Detectives on the Food Network and Sid the Science Kid on PBS.

Pastry Chef

Michael Laiskonis was named creative director of New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education in 2012. Previously executive pastry chef at Le Bernardin for eight years, his pastry philosophy manifested itself in a style of desserts that balanced art and science, and contemporary ideas with classic. Awarded Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007 by the James Beard Foundation, his work also helped the restaurant maintain three stars from the esteemed Michelin Guide and four stars from the New York Times. In his five year tenure as pastry chef at Tribute in Detroit, Pastry Art and Design twice named him one of the 10 best pastry chefs in America.

Laiskonis has been featured in numerous web, print, television, and radio appearances internationally. His writing has also appeared in Gourmet and The Atlantic, as well as several anthologies, including The Kitchen as a Laboratory.

Food Author

Harold McGee writes about the science of food and cooking. He has been named food writer of the year by Bon Appetit magazine, and to the Time 100, an annual list of the world’s most influential people. He started out studying physics and astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, and then English literature at Yale University. In 1984 he published On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Twenty years later, the revised and enlarged edition of On Food and Cooking won several awards, and is now a standard reference in culinary schools and kitchens worldwide. His most recent book, Keys to Good Cooking, was published in 2010, and from 2006 to 2011 he wrote the “Curious Cook” column in the New York Times.


Amy Rowat is an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Originally from Canada, she studied physics and various other subjects at Mount Allison University and completed her graduate work in Denmark. Following postdoctoral studies at Harvard, Amy joined the faculty at UCLA, where she has established her laboratory that focuses on understanding the mechanical properties of soft biological materials. In addition to her commitment to research, Rowat has also pioneered the use of examples from food and cooking as vehicles for teaching sophisticated physics concepts to a general audience. She is co-developer of the first annual Harvard Science & Cooking course, and is founder and director of Science & Food, an organization based at UCLA that promotes knowledge of science through food and food through science.

Food Scientist, Author

César Vega earned his doctorate in food science from the University College Cork in Ireland. His areas of expertise include dairy products, particularly ice cream and yogurt, the physical chemistry of cocoa and chocolate, and the science of cooking. He has published over 20 peer-reviewed manuscripts, two book chapters, and one book. He is a research manager at Mars, Incorporated where his main responsibility is the design of cocoa flavanol-containing foods. He is also one of Mars’ few global experts in the science of caramel and nougat.

Vega is a passionate cook. He was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Canada; he was one of the expert reviewers in Myrhvold’s Modernist Cuisine; he is a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science and of Food Biophysics, and he is co-editor of, and contributor to, The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food & Cooking. He acts as a consultant to Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup and openly collaborates with chefs around the world.