Research Chefs Prove Value of Culinology

In the new economy, research chefs prove culinology’s value.

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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“The career marketplace is fertile for students graduating with a degree in culinology, as well as the chefs that have achieved comprehensive knowledge in food science and the scientists that have done the same with culinary arts,” says Kalil. “It is a tremendous competitive advantage for the food service professional as well as the company they work for.”

Kalil sees more growth in “great-tasting food products that provide tremendous health benefits.” He sees increased emphasis on such foods being “made with real food ingredients that are inherently good for you,” citing as example “fruits high in antioxidants, combinations of legumes and grains resulting in a complete protein, spices that have health benefits and at the same time contribute to the flavor experience.”

“Asia and Latin fusion with classic French and European techniques are not going away,” Chef J stresses. “They will become part of everyday cuisine.” Although he sees the “truly weird stuff” as “just a fad,” Chef J notes that star chefs such Charlie Trotter, Homaro Cantu, Grant Achatz and others involved in use of such research-chef techniques as sous vide and molecular gastronomy equipment along the lines of cryogenic “cookers” and lasers all are a direct result of the research chefs and culinology.

Valley points to a combination of trends, with ethnic flavors and comfort foods still piquing consumer interest. “Indian food is hot now,” he says, “but I think we also will see an increase in familiar foods as home meal replacements. A lot of people just don't cook anymore, and with the economy down people will opt out of restaurant meals and choose more prepared meals — comfort foods, foods they know, such as lasagna, meatloaf, roast turkey…foods mom used to make.”

According to Dean Koetke, the future of culinology is pointing nowhere but up. “When you teach the principles of science as they pertain to food — if you understand those — you’re empowered to be a better chef. It doesn’t reduce the power of artistry in food, it enhances it; it gives you more tools in your bag to do a better job. You’ll never find yourself scratching your head at a disaster wondering why something went wrong. I’m a huge proponent of chefs having knowledge of food science.”

In a particularly frightening economic era of tightened belts, drastically declining spending power and shaky security, the technical end of food processing offers a ray of optimism. After all, the food business is still a near-trillion dollar one, and good times or bad, people have to eat. But more that that, with people working more hours and double-incomes a necessity for survival, consumer food dollars are still being spent on foods made outside the home.

Add to this the fact that during the giddy times of plenty we all got used to a sophisticated level of flavors and varieties in what we eat and the optimism seems well founded. Chef J probably puts it best: “The future is so bright we gotta wear shades!”

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