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Towards a new science of cuisine

City will host Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University, who will deliver a lecture in the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre on 12th November, titled “Gastrophysics: the new science of the table".
by John Stevenson

Gourmet cuisine

On 12th November at 6:30pm, Oxford University Professor of Experimental Psychology and University Lecturer, Professor Charles Spence, will deliver a lecture titled "Gastrophysics: the new science of the table" in A130 in the College Building.

Professor Charles Spence will address the recent rapid growth of interest in a more scientific approach to cuisine. Drawing on his recent book, "The perfect meal: The multisensory science of food and dining", he will focus on the science of the diner rather than the more common science of the kitchen as found in modernist cooking of molecular gastronomy.

Charles SpenceResearchers from many disciplines including psychology, sensory science, economics, experimental aesthetics, neuroscience, etc, are becoming interested in food and the multisensory nature of meal experiences.

The latest insights are now being used, for instance, to transform the plating of food from an art into a science. Technology is also increasingly coming to play a key role in the delivery of what is known as 'off the plate' dining experiences.

Much of Professor Spence's work involves the investigation of multisensory illusions such as the 'rubber hand illusion'. He is also interested in learning how our understanding of multisensory perception can be used in a consumer psychology setting to improve the perception of everyday objects. Of particular relevance to food is his work on vision and chemical senses, which asks the question - do we just smell or taste what we see?

The main goal of this project is to understand the interactions between vision and odour and taste perception, and in particular, investigating the influence of colour on odour and taste perception, and the level of processing where any cross modal integration may occur. He works with chefs including Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, and with Ferran Adria's research kitchen in Spain. He is currently doing projects with the Paul Bocuse cookery school in Lyon, France, and with young and up-and-coming chefs such as Charles Michel in Bogota, Colombia.

City's Professor of Pervasive Computing, Professor Adrian Cheok, says the lecture should excite the taste buds and the imagination:

"Next week's audience will be listening to one of the world's leading researchers exploring cutting edge scientific knowledge of food. The enjoyment of food has entered an altogether exciting and daring threshold in recent years. I look forward to welcoming Professor Spence to City. It will be fascinating to listen to him explore the rapidly developing interest in a more scientific approach to haute cuisine."

Please visit this weblink for free registration to the lecture.

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