Chef Secrets: The Science of Cooking

The secret ingredient to becoming a better cook? Science! Top chefs and culinary experts explain the chemistry, physics and microbiology of cooking
Available on CBC Gem

Chef Secrets: The Science of Cooking

Nature of Things

The world’s best chefs know a secret. There’s a hidden ingredient in their tastiest dishes: science!

Featuring some of the world’s top culinary experts, Chef Secrets: The Science of Cooking, a documentary from The Nature of Things, goes deep inside the kitchen to reveal why science is the key to becoming a better home cook.

Guest host Anthony Morgan is a molecular research scientist — and the first to admit that he’s “not much of a cook.” As he attempts to bake sourdough bread from scratch, swallow red hot chili peppers and make creamy mashed potatoes, he discovers how the chemistry, physics and microbiology of cooking can help him take command in the kitchen.

As Lesa Tran Lu, who teaches a popular “Chemistry of Cooking” class at Rice University, says, “Having a better understanding of the science that you use in cooking makes you cook smarter.”

Chef Secrets: The Science of Cooking features a diverse cast of experts who use their scientific know-how to create appetizers, desserts and everything in between. The experts include:

  • Ali Bouzari: A culinary consultant with a PhD in mashed potatoes. He adds a dash of chemistry to master the mash
  • Vanessa Kimbell: Britain’s popular “queen of sourdough.” She bakes her passion for nutritional science into every loaf
  • Nik Sharma: A molecular biologist and bestselling cookbook author who combines his love for Indian cuisine and science to spice up vegetables
  • Andrew George: A world-renowned chef and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief whose traditional knowledge has been passed down through seven generations
  • Lesa Tran Lu and Nick Wong: A chemistry lecturer and a top chef who concoct Vietnamese-style fajitas with a sizzling chemical reaction
  • Maya Warren: An ice cream scientist with “the coolest job in the world.” She explains why every spoonful of this tasty treat is surprisingly complex

As the experts show us how science enhances cooking, they explain some fundamental food mysteries: What makes sourdough taste so tangy? Why does searing meat at high temperatures lead to “a molecular orgy”? How does a frozen dessert stay scoopable? Why don’t oil and vinegar mix? And how do chilies trick our brains into thinking they’re hot?

Along the way, they reveal insider tips to help home cooks sharpen their culinary skills and gain confidence in the kitchen. Even gourmet cooks might be surprised to learn that applying science — adding certain ingredients or trying different utensils — can help make dishes more delicious.

Chef Secrets: The Science of Cooking blends useful information and entertaining demonstrations into an appetizing film that’s easy to digest. So preheat your ovens and get ready to whip up some scrumptious science!