Home  /  Series  /  Behind the Book  /  Behind The Book: On Cooking and Science ● 7/28/2022

Behind The Book: On Cooking and Science with Harold McGee

Thursday, July 28, 2022 at 6 p.m. PT • Virtual Event

"Behind The Book: On Cooking and Science" - Harold McGee in Conversation with Tom Mannion, Caltech Instructor of Culinary Sciences.

A kitchen classic for over 35 years and hailed by Time magazine as "a minor masterpiece" when it first appeared in 1984, then later revised in 2004, On Food & Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen, pioneered the translation of technical food science into cook-friendly kitchen science and helped birth the inventive culinary movement known as molecular gastronomy. Though other books have been written about kitchen science, On Food and Cooking remains unmatched in its accuracy and clarity. It earned McGee an iconic status among swaggering chefs who wanted to test the boundaries between stoves and Bunsen burners.

In recent decades, a number of chefs/authors/scientists began to enlighten us with books that explore the intersection of food and the sciences. We're proud that we are beginning this new subseries with alumnus Harold McGee joined by Caltech's Tom Mannion. Harold is the acknowledged pioneer author who has inspired many others to connect their passions for food and science in books that we'll be celebrating in the coming months.

Join us live as author Harold McGee and Caltech Instructor of Culinary Sciences, Tom Mannion, engage in an exciting conversation on the science of food, cooking, and smells! McGee's book Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World's Smells will be released in paperback this October. Stay afterwards for a live by a Q&A.

About Harold McGee (as written by the author)

I write about the chemistry of food and cooking. I took up this odd vocation after studies at Caltech (class of 1973) and at Yale University. After several years as a literature and writing instructor at Yale, I decided to practice what I'd been teaching, and write a book: a book about the science of everyday life.

The result was the publication in 1984 of a 680-page compendium, On Food & Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen. My timing was lucky: America and Britain were awakening to the pleasures of good food and to the diversity of world cuisines, and On Food & Cooking helped satisfy the growing hunger for information about ingredients and techniques.

I wrote it to translate technical food science into cook-friendly kitchen science, something that had not yet been done in a systematic, comprehensive way.

On Food & Cooking gradually became a standard reference, the book to which food lovers and professional chefs worldwide turn for an understanding of where our foods come from, what exactly they're made of, and how cooking transforms them into something new and delicious.

For its 20th anniversary year in 2004, I prepared an expanded fully revised and updated edition, and in 2010, Penguin Press published my practical kitchen handbook Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes.

Along the way I've contributed reviews and original research to the scientific journal Nature and have written articles for many publications. For five years, I contributed a column on science and food, "The Curious Cook," to the New York Times. Since 2010, I've been a visiting lecturer at Harvard University in the course "Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science."

In 2010 I also began work on a book about flavors, which evolved into something more wide-ranging. Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World's Smells is published by Penguin Press.

About Thomas N. Mannion

Tom Mannion, Senior Director for Student Activities and Programs and Student Affairs Instructor joined Caltech in 1993, and in 2003, he began offering the class PA-16 Cooking Basics, a survey of cooking and food science. This class is often referred to as the most popular elective on campus. Tom is beloved by Caltech students and organizes student events, pranks, clubs, leadership development, and many other areas of student life.

Tom received his BA and did master's work in International Relations (Russia and Eastern Europe) at George Washington University. He earned certificates from the Culinary Institute of America in Wine; Wine and Food Pairing; Mediterranean Cuisine, American Bounty and Sauces and Stocks, to name a few.

His work has been featured on CNN and local networks, as well as in Newsweek, on Reuters, NPR, and in newspapers across the country. During an interview with Patt Morrison on NPR, Stephen Hawking (a cooking class regular) rated Tom's food two Michelin Stars.

Praise for On Food and Science & Nose Dive

On Food and Cooking: Publishers Weekly: "a stunning masterpiece" / Newsweek: "Harold McGee is every food expert's secret source" / Vogue: "Thank God for Harold McGee"

Nose Dive: — Library Journal: "Perfect for foodies, those interested in science, and the innately curious. Engagingly written, this would be a wonderful ready reference to have on hand."