We just wrapped up another fantastic set of Young Chefs Program: From Cooking to Science workshops! We spent the last two days with the teachers and students part of the Harvard Medical School Native American High School Summer Science Program (https://www.hms.harvard.edu/dms/diversity/nahssp.html). This program brings high school students and teachers from the Hopi and Fort Peck Reservations to Harvard University for three weeks of college-level science education. The focus is to communicate science concepts as it relate to their everyday lives and to empower students to become change-makers in their own communities. Naturally, two years ago we added a cooking-science component to engage students with the chemistry, biology, and physics of the kitchen.
This year we had 14 students and 4 chaperones from the two communities. We first learned about the molecular solubility and neuroscience of capsaicin, the spicy molecule in chili peppers. Extracting this molecule into butter, we showed that it is hydrophobic and then used the spicy butter for a creative shrimp cocktail. The second day we spent learning about the physics of polymers and how their properties shape the texture of food. We made tortillas from scratch and measured their elasticity to quantify the perfect texture. The tortillas eventually became vehicles for delicious lobster tacos.
We were inspired by the Young Chefs chili and tortilla lesson plans, which you can find here: https://youngchefsprogram.org/educators/plans/
One of the most rewarding and fun teaching experiences this year! We are excited to continue this tradition every year!