When I was young, I developed a passion for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen (with varied success). In high school I realized you could study food science and make a career in researching and developing new foods, and I was captivated. When it came time for college, I knew I wanted to study Food Science at Cornell University, and fortunately I was able to do that. Fast forward, and I’ve had so many wonder-filled experiences, from creating dozens of new products that grace grocery shelves across North America and Europe, to traveling to new cities for food trend exploration. I’ve also developed a passion and deeper perspective on the environmental impact of ingredient production and our global food supply, because these things are too important to ignore.
What is Food Science?
When I tell people I’m a Food Scientist, the normal reaction is “What’s that?”. To which I respond, “Have you ever been to a grocery store? Every product in there has at least one person like me behind it.” Getting food to your plate involves more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) than you can imagine. STEM keeps your food safe, makes it delicious and nutritious, delights the senses and drives innovation.
In a Food Science curriculum, you’re immersed in many core sciences and math such as chemistry, biology, microbiology, physics and calculus but the real fun comes when you apply those sciences in classes like Food Microbiology, Food Chemistry, Sensory Science and Nutrition. One of the biggest challenges we face today is how to safely and adequately feed a growing global population. Through food science, we can make meaningful contributions to ensure that everyone has access to a safe, healthy, affordable, and sustainable food supply. We also focus on the science of flavors, sensory experiences and perception.
Food Science in Action
For me, ice cream is much more than a perfect summer treat. It is a four-phase solution, which when in perfect balance, is a sensory delight. It’s smooth, creamy, cold and sweet. When I’m creating ice cream, I’m looking at how the molecular weight of different sugars impacts the freezing point, or how the ratio of fat to protein impacts the ability of the ice cream to hold air, both of which impact the texture. I’m looking at how different fats change flavor delivery or testing the ideal freezer temperature. And that’s just the tip of the ice (cream) berg.
Several years ago, while researching ingredients and I learned how nutritious and sustainable hemp is as a crop. I had two thoughts “why don’t we eat more of this” and “this could have the makings of delicious dessert”. The more time I spent in the kitchen working with ingredients and recipes, the clearer it became: plants are delicious and can be the star of the show.
Hemp and oats may not be the most obvious heroes in ice cream, but I have seen they can create products just as delicious as the ones we’ve loved for centuries. We’re so accustomed to the sensory experiences we know, which sometimes involve ingredients produced in deleterious way. A majority of the average diet comes from 6 major crops that are increasingly grown in a way that degrades the surrounding environment, robbing the earth and our bodies of the biodiversity they need to truly flourish.
Looking towards the future of food, we need all our ingenuity to address the challenges of a growing population and a changing climate. Through new and emerging ingredients and their use in a wide variety of products we are on the front lines of revolutionary food innovation that supports a positive effect on our climate, health, food security, and animal welfare. The world needs more STEM champions studying plants and food systems, optimizing ingredients and creating to produce foods that are good for you and good for the earth.
In the Wonderlab we’re committed to finding ingredients that are grown in a way which is kind to the earth and make wonderful foods. Some of the best ingredients for the job aren’t familiar to us or associated with our usual staples – and that’s where the beauty of STEM kicks in, to deliver new ingredients in a way that is delicious, increases consumption and creates a market for environmentally positive crops. This, in turn, encourages farmers to grow them.
Our promise to you? We’ll spend a big portion of every day thinking about the power and beauty of the science that feeds you. Will you join us?!