Veronica Trevizo

Veronica Trevizo is the Development Chef at Momofuku Culinary Lab. Veronica hails from California, where she was born in San Diego, attended the California Culinary Academy, and worked at such venues as the Four Seasons in San Diego and the San Francisco establishments Jardinière and Michael Minas. She also spent time working at Spagos in Maui and has worked all over Europe, completing stages in Spain and at Noma in Copenhagen, before relocating to New York to work in the Momofuku Culinary Lab.

Veronica Trevizo courtesy of Port Magazine

Photo courtesy of Port Magazine

What hooked you on cooking?
I grew up in a traditional Hispanic family in which every month there was some sort of barbecue or grand family dinner. My fondest memories of my childhood revolve around those special occasions. I always found myself in the kitchen with my mother and Tias preparing the meals, feeling excited as I watched them cook and sneaking bits of food and knowledge. When they tried to shoo me from the kitchen, I stayed, and to this day I don’t want to be anywhere else.
The coolest example of science in your food?
I would have to agree with Dan and select our ongoing projects based around microbes and fermentation. At the Momofuku Culinary Lab we have been quite successful with our projects involving miso and other traditional fermentative products. These projects generated relationships and connections with experts in the scientific field, furthering our understanding and abilities to explore just how far we can evolve food sciences. It is my personal goal to continue to progress the collaboration between food and academia.
The food you find most fascinating?
Processed food. I find it fascinating that so much work and money is used to produce foods that are unhealthy, poor tasting, and downright bad for people.
What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?
• Maillard reaction: when compounds form together, creating new compounds that make a very distinctive flavor. For example, crust on bread and sugar to make caramels.
• MSG: there are so many ideas out there but none that are really true. This subject always seems to start a conversation.
• Neurogastronomy: an understanding of why we perceive something as delicious or disgusting fascinates me. The age old fight: “my mother’s food is better than yours!” There is so much going on that we just don’t fully understand yet.
Your best example of a food that is better because of science?
Milk. Pasteurization is a science win that absolutely highlights the importance of science in food.
How do you think science will impact your world of food in the next 5 years?
In the past years, we’ve seen the huge impact that science has had in our kitchens. A great example is the science-imagined and science-enabled equipment like centrifuges, cryovacs, and sous vide machines. Using equipment that is seen in laboratories now in almost every kitchen makes both fields more robust and makes our work even more informative for the public. As a cook, it has also helped me understand that scientists and chefs are not so different. I would say the impact is already here in the culinary world but I definitely see much more collaboration in the future. It starts with equipment and continues with the sharing of knowledge.
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
A knife.
Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
• Butter
• Valentina hot sauce
• Leftover takeout
• Homemade penicillin projects (aka some old bread…)
• Honestly, not that much! The fridge I’m thinking about is always the one at the lab.
Your all-time favorite ingredient?
I can’t live without salt!
Favorite cookbook?
My favorite cookbook… there are so many. I do love Julia Child and remember reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking religiously as a child.
Your standard breakfast?
I usually just have black coffee. But I do love chilaquiles!

Daniel Felder

Daniel Felder is the Head of Research and Development at the Momofuku Culinary Lab. Dan is originally from Roxbury, Connecticut, and began working in restaurants at the age of eighteen while he was studying at Union College in Saratoga Springs, New York. He moved to New York City and joined the Momofuku team in 2008 at Noodle Bar and Ko, and now at the Momofuku Culinary Lab.

Dan Felder credit Gabriele Stabile

Photo courtesy of Gabriele Stabile

What hooked you on cooking?
Both my parents are quite good home cooks, and let me cook with them from a really early age, sitting at the counter watching and then helping as I got older. My great-aunt is an amazing home cook, and still lives in Rome. She had an impact on me and my cousins, as four of us now work in the food industry. Learning from her was a challenge; she wouldn’t give up her secrets unless you earned them, usually by doing some unrelated task for an extended period of time. Once I got my food in the door of professional kitchens, it was a similar scenario. You have to earn knowledge. That’s the slippery slope for me; learning something new in the kitchen repeatedly opens my eyes to how much more there is to learn.
The coolest example of science in your food?
One of the coolest examples is probably the ongoing projects at the Culinary Lab based around microbes and fermentation. The heart of this process for us was really the application of scientific methodology. Applying scientific structure and procedures to how we pursue a question has actually given us a lot of freedom in how we experiment. By breaking down and understanding the mechanics of a process we can’t see with the naked eye, we can start with a grounded hypothesis and begin manipulating variables until we get to where we want to be. Our miso is a good example of this process.
The food you find most fascinating?
I am really fascinated by starches, grains, root vegetables, etc. I realize it is pretty familiar and basic territory, but I think the bio-technological capacity of rice and grains, for example, is really incredible. We have only scratched the surface of what we can do with it. There has been a lot of research with corn and different starches for industrial purposes and alcohol, but as cooks, I think we have so much more to discover.
What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?
• Why starburst candies cause extreme salivation.
(More of a question than a concept—potential student project?)
• Enzymes.
• Metabolic pathways. Specifically, how the body metabolizes sugars and amino acids.
• Hydrolysis of protein.
• Correlation of fermentation to larger biological processes.
Your best example of a food that is better because of science?
Italian salad dressing.
How do you think science will impact your world of food in the next 5 years?
Not to be gross, but the idea of “out of body digestion” is really interesting to me. Can we extrapolate and apply the mechanism of digestive processes in the natural world as catalysts in the kitchen? Fermentation is a familiar example of this idea, but I believe we can take it a bit further by looking at more diverse biological processes, and hopefully reveal new nutritive resources (hopefully delicious ones) as a result.
As a corollary, the things Alex Atala, Noma, and the Nordic Food Lab have found by exploring potential food sources in their respective environments is both very interesting and indicative of what is in the immediate future for science and food. In our lab, we are looking at how we can extend this idea to process as well. ow can we disinter biological processes from the natural world and bring them into the kitchen?
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
Rene and Lars gave the perfect answer: spoon. I can’t compete with that. If I had to pick one for the Momofuku Culinary Lab, I would go with a Dremel.
Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
• Fruit and veggies
• Good Seasonings Italian salad dressing
(the one in the packets that comes with the cruet)
• An excess of condiments
• Olives and pickles
• Budweiser
Your all-time favorite ingredient?
That’s hard to say. Butter, maybe? Bread?
Favorite cookbook?
Also hard to choose. Right now we have a copy of Ben Shewry’s new book, Origin: The Food of Ben Shewry, in the Culinary Lab. It rules.
Your standard breakfast?
I don’t really eat breakfast, but, if I make it on the weekend, it errs on the English breakfast side of things: poached eggs, tinned beans, potato, tomato, sometimes a breakfast meat. Conversely, I am also a sucker for huevos rancheros.

Umami & The Momofuku Culinary Lab


Mark Bittman explores the savory umami flavor of miso, and David Chang shows Gizmodo around his (not-so-secret) secret lab. Stay tuned the next few weeks for lots more about the Momofuku Culinary Lab and the delicious science of umami! Read more

Apple Pie with Peanut Butter Mousse

The Science of Pie – May 19, 2013
People’s Choice Award
Elan Kramer, Caleb Turner (Team “Insert Team Name Here”)

This student duo thought outside the box with this creative apple and peanut butter pie. To create the ultimate peanut butter experience, the team experimented with the effect of egg white content on the texture and density of the peanut butter mousse.


photos courtesy of Patrick Tran

Egg white content affects mousse texture. (A, B) Team “Insert Team Name Here” visualized the air bubbles incorporated into peanut butter mousses prepared with different amounts of egg whites. (C) Using image processing techniques, they calculated the mean (red) and median (blue) air bubble areas as a function of egg white content. Their results show that there is indeed an optimal egg white content for creating an light, airy mousse. (D) An egg white is made up of many proteins suspended in water. Whipping incorporates air bubbles into the egg whites, causing the proteins to unfold as they are exposed to air. Denatured proteins [link to ceviche recipe] form networks at the liquid/air interfaces that stabilize air bubbles within the egg white foam.

The Recipe
Frozen apple pie with peanut butter mousse

1 large store-bought graham cracker crust

For the apple layer:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 firm-textured cooking apples*, peeled, cored, and sliced
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp powdered sugar
*Team “Insert Team Name Here” used Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples

For the peanut butter mousse:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup smooth peanut butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites

For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp powdered sugar
½ cup finely chopped salted dry-roasted peanuts
2 graham crackers, crushed
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

To prepare the apple layer, melt the butter in a large sautée pan. Stir in the apples and granulated sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and powdered sugar and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and refrigerate.

To make the peanut butter cloud layer, use an electric mixer to whip the heavy cream until it holds semi-firm peaks. Cover and refrigerate.

Using the mixer, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugars, then the vanilla. The mixture will be lumpy, like cookie dough. Add the whipped cream to the peanut butter mixture, slowly blending them together with the electric mixer until smooth.

Clean and dry the beaters. Using a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the peanut butter mixture with a rubber spatula until evenly blended. Put mixture into the pie crust, cover loosely with aluminum foil and freeze for at least 5 hours.

When you’re ready to serve the pie, take it out of the freezer and top with the refrigerated apples. For the topping, add the powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon to the cream and use an immersion blender or mixer to whip. Spread over the top of the pie and sprinkle with peanuts, graham cracker crumbs, and remaining cinnamon.

Recipe adapted from Cookstr: Frozen Apple and Peanut Butter Cloud Pie

Apple Pie with Vodka Crust

The Science of Pie – May 19, 2013
Judge’s Favorite Pie
Qiaoyi Wu, Qinqin Chen, Michelle Cheng (Team Aπ3)

Seeking to perfect pie crust texture, team Aπ3 experimented with different liquids that may impede the formation of gluten protein networks. Gluten gives structure and stability to pie dough, but can also make pie dough dense and tough when over-developed. The team examined the porousness, density, and browning of pie crusts prepared with their three different liquids compared to water and concluded that vodka creates the flakiest pie crust.


photos courtesy of Patrick Tran

Different liquids affect the density of pie crust. (A) Pie crust prepared with alcohol (beer or vodka) is less dense than pie crust prepared with water. Interestingly, carbonated water also lowers the density of the pie crust compared to water. (B-E) Team Aπ3 did not observe much difference in the browning of pie crusts prepared with water (B), carbonated water (C), beer (D), or vodka (E).

The Recipe
Apple pie with vodka crust

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp (approx.) ice water
2 tbsp (approx.) vodka

For the filling:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 pounds apples, peeled, quartered, cored, thinly sliced*
*Team Aπ3 used a half Fuji and half Granny Smith apples.

For the streusel topping:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5 tbsp (2.5 oz) unsalted butter, chilled

Preheat oven to 375F.

To prepare the crust, mix the dry ingredients. Cut in the cubes of butter until the butter forms approximately pea-sized pieces. Add water and vodka one tablespoon at a time, alternating the liquids. Only add liquid until the dough starts to come together and can be formed into a ball. Chill dough for at least 30 min. Roll out the dough and press into a pie pan to form the bottom crust.

To prepare the filling, mix all filling ingredients. Spread the filling mixture on top of the bottom crust. Try to arrange the filling so that the top of the pie is flat.

To prepare the streusel topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut the butter into small pieces and incorporate into the dry ingredients until the butter is in very small pieces. Spread the streusel topping over the pie filling.

Bake pie at 375F for 45-50 min.

Recipe adapted from Eat Me, Delicious: Apple Pie with Brown Sugar Streusel Topping

Deconstructed Apple Pie

The Science of Pie – May 19, 2013
Best Tasting Pie
Stephan Phan, Kevin Yang, Amirari Diego (Team Apples to Apples)

Using the technique of spherification, this team applied their knowledge of diffusion and gelation to prepare “reconstituted” apples. They found that optimizing both the calcium chloride concentration and gelation time was key to making a delicious modernist apple pie.


photos courtesy of Patrick Tran

Calcium promotes the solidification of alginate networks. Alginate is a long, negatively charged molecule called a polysaccharide. Positively charged sodium ions (Na+) dissociate from the alginate when dissolved to create a goopy but liquid solution. Doubly charged calcium ions (Ca2+) can bind two different alginate strands simultaneously, thereby crosslinking and solidifying the solution. Increasing the number of calcium crosslinks by raising the concentration of calcium chloride and/or lengthening the soaking time create a more solid gel.

The Recipe
Deconstructed apple pie with pie crust crumbs and spherified apples

10 g sodium alginate
20 g calcium chloride
1 L 100% organic apple juice*
1 L water**

*Team Apples to Apples recommends using pulp-free organic apple juice. Freshly pressed apple juice tends to have too much pulp, while additives in non-organic apple juice may interfere with the spherification process.

**For the Science of Pie, Team Apples to Apples used 10g of sodium alginate in 1 L of apple juice and 20g of calcium chloride in 1 L of water. This recipe does not require such large volumes, but it is important to maintain these ratios as they affect the gelation time for the apple spheres.

Mix the sodium alginate into the apple juice. We recommend using an immersion blender, but whisking vigorously will also work. Let the solution sit until any foaming subsides; if large amounts of foam formed during mixing, you may also want to skim foam from the surface of the solution. The solution is ready for spherification once it has reached almost an apple sauce viscosity.

Prepare your calcium bath by dissolving the calcium chloride into the water. Mix lightly; the solution is ready once all visible particles have disappeared and the liquid it appears translucent again.

To create each spherified apple, scoop no more than one tablespoon (it becomes increasingly harder with bigger volumes) of apple juice solution using a deep spoon and carefully drop it into the calcium chloride solution. It helps to use a second spoon to scoop the apple solution out of the first spoon. This is mainly technique—you will get the hang of it after a dozen or so attempts!

Let the apple juice solution sit in the calcium chloride solution for approximately 30 seconds. There will not be a noticeable difference if left for an additional 30 seconds, but the apple juice solution will continue to solidify as it sits in the calcium chloride solution and fully solidify after about 10 minutes. Feel free to play around with the timing of this step to achieve the desired spherified apple texture.

To serve, place the spherified apple in an Asian-style soup spoon and garnish with a bed of sugar and graham cracker crust crumbs, a sliver of green apple skin, and a dusting cinnamon.

More information about spherification can be found at Molecular Recipes.

Shortbread Apple Pie

The Science of Pie – May 19, 2013
Best Overall Pie
Alia Welsh (Team Sablé)

This solo effort explored the vast parameter space of pie, studying the effect of fat content and temperature on the texture of the shortbread crust, as well as the effect of pH on the browning of the streusel topping. The final winning pie had shortbread made with room temperature standard American butter.


photos courtesy of Patrick Tran

Effect of different fats on the shortbread crust. The quality of the shortbread crust was evaluated based on its color and texture. Porousness (“porosity”) was quantified by converting crust image pixels to black or white, with black pixels representing holes in the crust. A higher percentage of black pixels corresponds to a higher porosity and thus a crumblier crust. The extent of browning was quantified by calculating the RGB values of each crust image and comparing to a “deep golden brown” color standard (RGB 184-134-11). Standard American butter created the most desirable crust in terms of both browning and porosity.

The Recipe
Apple pie with shortbread crust and streusel topping

For the filling:
3-4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
3-4 Fuji apples, peeled and cored
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks of standard American butter at room temperature
1 egg white, separated

For the streusel:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds
1/4 tsp salt
7 tbsp flour
6 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 375F.

To prepare the filling, cut the apples into approximately ¼ inch slices. Combine with the remaining filling ingredients and sautée over low heat until the water from the apples forms a sauce and thickens slightly. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the crust, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with knives or a pastry blender. Pour the mixture into a pie pan and spread evenly with back of a large spoon or measuring cup. The crust should be about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake crust at 375F for about 15 minutes or until the crust is a light golden brown. Allow the crust to cool for 2-3 minutes, then brush with the egg white.

While crust is baking, prepare the streusel. Combine the dry streusel ingredients. Mix in melted butter and honey to form clumps. Set aside.

To assemble the pie, pour filling into the pre-baked, egg-washed crust and sprinkle streusel on top. Bake for about 35 min at 375F. Streusel should be deep golden brown.

Squishy Physics & The Molecules We Eat


This week we’re all about texture! The Fernbank Science Center dives into the squishy physics of soft (food) materials, while Amy Rowat explains how food can help us understand the different textural properties of cancerous cells versus healthy cells. Read more

Eat Your Science

Professor Amy Rowat, Science & Food’s fearless leader, was lucky enough to spend the week at the 2013 World Science Festival in New York City.  Scientists featured in the festival discussed everything from quantum mechanics to nanomedicine; Professor Rowat helped bring scientific discovery to life at The Taste of Science, a multi-course meal highlighting the power of gastronomic experimentation.

And what a feast it was–physics, chemistry, neuroscience, and microbiology all packed into ten courses. Creative dishes prepared by visionary chefs provided an edible demonstration of intriguing scientific concepts. Writer and food critic Jeffrey Steingarten, notorious for his scathing reviews as an Iron Chef Judge and not one to dish out compliments, seemed quite delighted at the end of the night and even admitted that this was the overall best modernist meal he had ever had!


Before the event, Chef and Cocktail Master Dave Arnold of Booker & Dax and NYU Chemist Kent Kirshenbaum prepare for their presentation on cocktail science (left), and Dr. Kirshenbaum catches up on a little last-minute preparatory reading (right).


To kick off the night, science and food pioneer Harold McGee sets the stage with some historical perspective. (It’s been a while since the salon days of the early 1900s.)


Jay Kenji Alt, mastermind of the Serious Eats Food Lab, emceed the event, guiding diners through their scientific meal and and peppering the speakers with questions throughout the evening


Chefs Najat Kaanache and Bill Yosses strategize their “chocolate paper” dessert, featuring the structural molecules of fruits, such as pectin (left). Meanwhile, Maxime Bilet’s team is hard at work plating their “Noble Roots” dish for the Neuroscience of Taste (right).


Equipped with complimentary nose plugs, neuroscientist Professor Stuart Firestein of Columbia University led the audience in a sensory experiment to experience the role of smell in taste perception. Jelly beans just don’t taste the same without a sense of smell!


Professor Rowat’s dining partners, Harvard microbiologist Dr. Rachel Dutton (left) and Harold McGee (right), partake in the grand olfactory experiment.