Public lecture by world-renowned French chemist Prof Hervé This

 

The evening of 28 June 2018 was a memorable one. Prof Hervé THIS, a master science communicator, thrilled entertained and educated an audience of over 400 at the Faculty of Science. Prof This, one of the fathers of molecular gastronomy, spoke on “Molecular Gastronomy and the Future of Food”. 

The lecture incorporated live demonstrations of the chemistry of food.  Prof This cooked the dish “Dirac” named after the famous physicist, using water, egg white powder, sugar and aromas. He also outlined his philosophy of research and teaching science. 

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Prof Shen Zuowei, Dean, Faculty of Science, said, “Prof This’ visual demonstrations on how research in chemistry, physics and biology can create novel food tastes and flavours is an excellent example of how creative science communication can capture the public imagination and help non-scientists to understand the compelling impact of science in our daily lives.”

Prof This is a true culinary revolutionary. A physical chemist at France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research, he has spent his career bringing science into the kitchen, both to explain traditional cooking and then to dismantle it. 

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Together with physicist Prof Nicholas KURTI, he created the field of Molecular Gastronomy in 1988. Molecular Gastonomy not only explains traditional cooking but uses scientific methods to create food for the future. Prof This also pioneered the technique of Note-by-Note cooking - building food from pure chemical compounds. Note-by-Note cooking bypasses traditional ingredients like vegetables, meat and fruit. Instead, it uses underlying compounds (e.g. protein, lipids, saccharides, phenolics etc.) to create a wide range of food. 

Prof This artistically describes Note-by-Note cooking:  “If you use pure compounds, you open up billions of new possibilities. It’s like a painter using primary colours or a musician composing wave by wave with a synthesiser.”

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In his talk, Prof This highlighted the importance of Note-by-Note cooking for the future. He concluded the lecture with a poignant reminder of our collective responsibility of safeguarding the well-being of our planet and future generations.

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The event was organised by At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy and supported by the Faculty’s Science Communication Programme. The French Embassy supported the event as part of the “France-Singapore Year of Innovation.” This event was also part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Faculty’s Master in Science Communication programme which is jointly offered with The Australian National University (ANU). 

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Chemistry student LIM Yi Qian said, "Prof This introduced many different aspects of molecular gastronomy in his talk. I was awed by how much science exists in cooking. Prof This also explained the difference between using a sharp and blunt knife for cutting and how this causes the texture of food to be uneven on a microscopic level.” 

Sihem TEDJAR, Product Manager at Biorithm Pte Ltd, said, “One of the best scientific talks of this year! Prof This is a great speaker who knows how to engage the audience through accessible scientific content and real time experiences!”

Pl view the video of Prof This’ lecture here.