SXSW 2010: Cooking for Geeks: Science, Hacks, & Good Food

Friday, March 12, 2010 5:00pm
Jeff Potter, Cooking for Geeks

Session Description

Cooking for Geeks covers a new way of looking at how to cook for the hacker, maker, and creative person. By bringing science and experimentation into the kitchen, this panel will show how to create better food and new experiences at the dinner table.

Jeff Potter has been cooking with geeks, makers, and hackers since college and is the author of the forthcoming O’Reilly book, Cooking for Geeks. He has written code in cubicle land, survived the startup experience, and done the entrepreneurial thing, and through it all maintained his sanity by cooking for friends. He lives in Cambridge, MA.


Tasting & Cooking

The types of taste buds are sour, salty, sweet, and bitter.

The four stages of cooking: Inputs -> Cooking -> Sensations -> Perceptions

Type of cooks:

  • Giving: friendly, enthusiastic, love baking
  • Healthy: optimistic, nature-loving, fish and veggies (Inputs -> Cooking)
  • Methodical: talented, recipe-driven
  • Innovative: creative, experiemental
  • Competitive: intense perfectionsts, “Iron Chef”

Types of tastes (Phenylthiocarbarnide, PTC):

  • Unbearably bitter “Super Tasters” (25%), more probably of cancer
  • Bitter (50%)
  • Nada (25%)

People who are “Super Tasters” are least likely to smoke as it tastes worse. They usually put sugar and creme into coffee since it’s bitter. It also happens that sugar is 2x sweeter, and hot peppers taste stronger. Someone who is a super taster is least likely to use salt as they can pull out all of the other flavors of the foods they eat.

The ability to taste is Generic, and over time your ability to taste will degrade over time at a rate most people do not notice it. Stress can cause a loss for taste as well. There is data that suggests Chefs who are not Super Tasters are more likely to become the Manager of restaurants than be the Chef.

Five Key Temperatures

  • 122 degrees F Myosin: this is the temperatures at which meat and proteins change shape causing texture and flavor differences. Meat, for instance, tastes better when it has lost its native structure.
  • 131 degrees F Bacteria: Highest reported food born illness spreading. They can live at temps higher than this, but they will not reproduce and multiply.
  • 150 degrees F Actin: this gives meats their tough and dry texture. Ideally you want to cook meat to around 145.
  • 310 degrees F Maillard Reaction: reaction between protein and a reducing sugar which occurs when these two compounds bread down and create hundreds of different flavor. It gives this type of “nutty” flavor. When you grill food the grill marks are essentially this.
  • 356 degrees F Carmaelization: 320-340 degrees F it actually starts, but at 356 degrees it becomes visually present.
Posted in Geeky, SXSW 2010.

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