Rogers students join Salve chemistry majors to participate in Molecular Gastronomy Day

About three dozen Rogers High School students who have been studying an integrated science unit on “Chemistry in the Kitchen” will be conducting field research in Salve Regina’s Miley Cafe on Friday where they will join with the university’s chemistry majors to participate in Molecular Gastronomy Day.

Hosted by Sodexo Dining Services on Friday, April 17 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the college cafeteria will be converted into a chemistry lab of sorts to showcase culinary innovation and show that chemistry is an important ingredient in every-day life. Specially trained chefs will prepare and serve a menu based on the principles of molecular gastronomy, including: Deconstructed Buffalo Popcorn Chicken Bites (gelification), Strawberry Soup Shooters with Crème Fraiche and Cocoa Caviar (spherification) and Cannoli Ice Cream Parfait (liquid nitrogen ice cream), among others.

“Since our Chemistry in the Kitchen unit was inspired by last year’s Molecular Gastronomy Day, I expect that after participating in this year’s event, our students will be inspired to further their study of food chemistry,” said Rogers science teacher Bethany Borgueta. About 35-40 Rogers students are expected to participate on Friday.

Borgueta’s experiential learning unit is offered at Rogers as part of the Newport Project a place-based, experiential learning program that utilizes the city’s wealth of historical, cultural, and natural features as the starting point for learning in English and integrated science. The program began as a pilot in academic year 2012-2013 with two English teachers, Nancy Noonan and Zinovia Canale, and received district and grant support for full implementation in 2013-2014.

“It is an expressed goal of the Newport Project to expose our students to as many opportunities for post-secondary experiences as possible,” Borgueta said. “In this respect, Salve is a community treasure. We would love the opportunity for our students not only in the Newport Project but also for our chemistry students to gain exposure to the university laboratory setting. Developing a collaboration with Dr. (Susan) Meschwitz and her Chemistry Club/Chemistry Department students makes perfect sense.”

Salve Regina’s chemistry department is donating lab equipment (beakers, flasks, test tubes, etc.) to embellish the food preparation and presentation on Friday. Students were eager to climb on board because the event not only helps draw attention to their Chemistry Club on campus, but gives them an opportunity to collaborate with the Rogers students.

“It’s nice for our chemistry students to get connected with some of the science students at Rogers High School,” said Meschwitz, assistant professor of chemistry. “Being connected with the college in this way can be a good resource, whether it’s with mentoring or tutoring, and it’s a partnership that continue to grow in the future.”

After Friday’s event, Borgueta said her students will return to their Rogers classrooms and the laboratory to examine the processes of alcoholic and lactic acid fermentation and then travel to their Culinary Arts program where Chef Kalble will demonstrate authentic sourdough and yeast leavening. They will study flavor chemistry and experiment with different compounds that give food a particular taste or smell.

“We also will investigate concepts such as crystallization in making fudge or rock candy and freezing point depression in making ice cream, and then will make fudge and rock candy and ice cream,” Borgueta said. “From these experiences, we hope to instill a willingness to learn something new, however bizarre, and to see the seemingly ordinary is extraordinary.”

Molecular gastronomy for culinary purposes is the use of chemical and physical transformations of ingredients that occur in the cooking process. The “chemicals” are actually food safe compounds, most of which are derived from seaweed, protein and plant byproducts.

“This is an opportunity for Sodexo and our partners to celebrate culinary innovation and talent,” said Mark Rodrigues, general manager of Sodexo Campus Services. “We’re continually developing programs and techniques to bring excitement and innovation to student dining.”