Saturday has traditionally served as the main stage for Texas A&M University’s annual Physics and Engineering Festival, set for April 1 at the George P. Mitchell ’40 Physics Buildings. While 2017 is no exception to that longstanding rule, the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy and two local chefs have something special cooking up for this year’s Friday night kickoff.
On Friday, March 31, Harvard University physicist Dr. David A. Weitz will team up with local celebrity chefs Peter Madden (Mad Taco) and Mitch Siegert (Truman Chocolates) for a free public lecture, Physics of Cooking, set for 7pm in the second-floor primary lecture hall of the Mitchell Physics Building. Tickets are not required for the unprecedented event, in which the trio will demonstrate some of their favorite cooking techniques and explain the underlying science behind their delectable work. The presentation will also be live streamed by KAMU-TV.
Texas A&M physicist and Festival organizer Dr. Tatiana Erukhimova says Weitz presented a similar session at the American Physical Society March Meeting last year in Baltimore, based on a popular course he has taught since 2010 at Harvard as a collaboration between science professors and chefs. Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science uses food and cooking to illustrate fundamental principles in applied physics and engineering. In addition to becoming a hit with non-science majors, the course has developed into a successful outreach mechanism, helping to encourage public interest in science as it explains the connections between cooking, soft matter physics, materials science, and organic chemistry.
In the free lecture, Weitz will detail the science of pioneering approaches to preparation and presentation of foods at several famous restaurants, while Madden and Siegert will offer similar insights into the local culinary scene. The presentation will feature demonstrations and examples that explore the science of several innovative techniques in cooking, including foams and use of gelation, as well as more common processes.
Weitz received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1978 and worked as a research physicist at Exxon Research and Engineering for nearly 18 years before becoming a physics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He returned to Harvard in 1999, where he is Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and a professor of systems biology. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Weitz is director of the Harvard Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and a co-director of both the BASF Advanced Research Initiative and the Harvard Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology.
Madden has worked in the restaurant business for 30 years – 20 of them dedicated to his principle craft as a chef. He earned college credits at both Texas A&M University and Blinn College, along with invaluable experience working in local kitchens. After completing a culinary apprenticeship program in Dallas, he embarked on the journey that led to his opening Madden’s Casual Gourmet in 2004. In the 13 years since, Madden has perfected his skill, stretched his limits as a chef, and developed a reputation for excellence. In 2015 he opened Mad Taco as one of the premier taco concepts in Bryan College Station. A second location is underway in south College Station and is due to open fall 2017.
Siegert graduated from the Culinary Institute of America with two degrees: one in culinary arts and another in baking and pastry arts. He has worked for many unique food establishments, including The Food Network and The Ritz Carlton, Naples. He moved back to B/CS to open Truman Chocolates. He has been recognized in countless feature articles and with many awards for his unique chocolates, which are produced through a delicate and time-consuming process that takes about a day to complete.
For additional information about Friday’s Physics of Cooking event, visit http://physicsfestival.tamu.edu/david-weitz/.
To see the complete Physics and Engineering Festival schedule and learn more about related activities, visit http://physicsfestival.edu.