Students in Food Science Class Learn How Food Is Manipulated

What happens when you replace butter with lard or oil when baking a pie crust? That’s what students in Virginia Mathes’ Food Science topics course were recently trying to figure out.

Jul 17, 2015

The students, mostly Culinary Arts majors, are studying the changes that occur in food when it is manipulated.

“It’s all about chemistry,” Mathes said. “Food reacts differently, depending on the ingredients and how it’s cooked.”

Understanding the chemistry of food makes for better cooks at home and chefs in restaurants.

In another class session, the students added acids and bases to a variety of vegetables. The students then had to taste them. “Some looked so pretty, but tasted just awful,” Mathes noted.

Mathes, a dietician with a master’s degree in Nutrition, developed the class by combining different manuals and techniques she used when she taught a similar course at the University of New Mexico. This is the first time a food science class has been offered at CNM.

As part of the course, students are discovering the science underlying food manipulation, ingredients, ratios, effects of heat and refrigeration, storage and preservation.

Students were very enthusiastic during a recent Thursday night class taught in one of the new culinary labs located in the newly renovated Robert P. Matteucci Hall.

“I like the whole class,” student Heather Darr said. “It’s cool to learn what’s underneath food. It makes me a better cook. We are learning why chemicals work the way they do. We recently learned the difference between baking powder and baking soda, which helped me understand how to make a better cookie.”

Third term culinary major Rachel Hebestreit agreed. “It’s really fun. It will make us culinary students better chefs.”

Mathes said that the students eat the food they prepare to gauge the various textures and tastes that are outcomes of their experiments.

For their final exam, the students will have to determine what is different in a recipe that has been modified in a variety of ways.