Alton Brown is coming to town! We took to the streets and asked folks about the intersection of food and science, why food entertainment has gotten so huge, and how they would impress the judges if they were competing.
Aaron Stunkard of the Westside is an admissions advisor.
Do you consume any food entertainment? I subscribe to Bon Appétit Magazine and Savour. I'm also a huge fan of the Food Lab column on Serious Eats, written by J. Kenji López-Alt. He used to work for America's Test Kitchen and they published a book this last year that won a James Beard Award that is effectively like The Joy of Cooking took a science class.
Why do you think people have re-engaged with food entertainment? I think it is tied to the internet and people's ability to connect with like-minded people in increasing ways. I think people who have this intense passion for cooking have been able to develop these communities, and talk to one another, and flesh out ideas in greater ways than in the past.
Where do you think the idea of science and cooking intersect? What happens there? I think it is a function of people finding a hobby to obsess about, and science is an essential part of the cooking process, whether it is the Maillard Reaction or simply the perfect temperature to cause the fibers of a meat to break down.
What's one of the craziest things you have seen someone do at that point? I would say that sous vide is one of the ways science is coming to the home cook. People who are really into pizza-making are taking things to the next level with carbon steel instead of pizza stones and pizza ovens that reach unheard-of levels of heat. There was a Kickstarter to convert a home gas stove to a closer approximation of an authentic wok burner — it creates almost a jet engine effect funneled upwards. I feel like it is part of the obsession that we are taking to the next level.
If you were going to a cooking competition show, what would you make as your signature dish to impress the judges? I would probably make from-scratch Pho using charred oxtail. I think it shows a long-term understanding of the development of flavor.
Saige Fuller of near Palmer Park is a communications student.
If there was anything specific you could learn to cook, or a specific technique you could learn, what would it be? I can make ingredients go together in a way that works, but it doesn't always look great. So learning to make food that looks and tastes good at the same time would be pretty cool. I want to bring cupcakes that taste delicious and don't look like a pile of mud. Or easier ways to make food that is both good for you and delicious.
Do you have any "food hacks" or secret things that you have figured out? One of my favorite easy things to do that tastes really good is coconut oil on purple cabbage. You just put it in the oven and broil it for a little bit. It is super good. It is a healthy, quick, delicious meal.
If you were going to a cooking competition and you had to make your signature dish to impress the judges, what would it be? Mac and Cheese with my secret ingredient. I would come up with a secret ingredient. Or crêpes, sweet ones with strawberries and other fruits.
Rebecca Saunders of near Research and Powers is a home decor consultant.
If there was anything specific you could learn to cook, or a specific technique you could learn, what would it be? How to touch raw chicken better. I hate touching raw chicken. I can do everything else, but I hate that. If there was an easier way to do that, that would be great!
If you were going to a cooking competition and you had to make your signature dish to impress the judges, what would it be? I would either make homemade cinnamon rolls — my grandma always made them growing up so I would help. At 3 I was rolling out cinnamon rolls with my grandma. Or pies. My mom makes seven pies every Thanksgiving. I would probably stick to baking.