Science is Delicious: My Senior Thesis Journey
This is it. After three years at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, I have finally reached my last semester. Three years of literal blood, sweat, and tears have led me to this moment.
My name is Charolette, and I’m a ninth-term Culinary Science student at the CIA. I started my journey here on a snow-filled December day in 2013, but I wasn’t cold for long. Before I knew it, I was sweating my way through the many different kitchens and classes that are a part of the culinary arts program here at the CIA. And after two years full of hard work and dedication, I finished the associate degree program and was able to begin working toward my bachelor’s degree.
I came to the CIA with an insatiable curiosity about food and a burning desire to understand the whys of cooking. Why do I have to add baking powder and baking soda to cookies? Why is it important to cook gravy for an extra 20 minutes after it gets thick? Why do the noodles in my pasta salad taste undercooked when I definitely boiled them until they were tender? These were questions about food that my curiosity just could not let go of. I found myself questioning so many different aspects of cooking as I worked my way through the associate program that I decided to pursue a degree that would help me answer these questions—and the Culinary Science program does just that.
Culinary Science Takes You Deeper Into Food
It’s a rigorous four-semester long journey to a bachelor’s degree. The program is a unique blending of food science and culinary arts, where food is used to better understand and explain the many different scientific phenomena that occur during the cooking process. Over the last three semesters, I have learned about food on a deeper level than I ever imagined possible. From understanding the science of how food cooks through the transfer of energy in our Dynamics of Heat Transfer class…to looking at the chemical composition of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in Culinary Chemistry…to learning the purpose that each ingredient has in Ingredient Functionality, I have gained an immense understanding of what food actually is. And now in my final semester, I get to take all of that knowledge and apply it to complete a Senior Thesis project.
Much like any great artist, you have to understand the rules before you’re allowed to break them, so much of our time up to this point has been spent learning how to properly conduct an experiment. Now you might be thinking, “Charolette, how do experiments relate to cooking and culinary arts?” Well, let me blow your mind real quick. Every time you tweak a recipe, you are conducting an experiment. I’ll give you a second to let that sink in. Let’s say you’re making an apple pie and you don’t have any cinnamon but you do have some pumpkin pie spice so you decide to use that instead. By swapping out one ingredient for another, you are experimenting. Who knew science could be so delicious?
So now that I know how to properly conduct an experiment, my Senior Thesis class is challenging me to design and run a series of experiments on my own, on a topic of my choosing. And I’ll be sharing that experience with you, every step of the way.
Until next time!
By Charolette Browder