SPU27x: Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science


Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in physics and engineering, and vice versa.

About this Course

*Note - This is an Archived course*

This is a past/archived course. At this time, you can only explore this course in a self-paced fashion. Certain features of this course may not be active, but many people enjoy watching the videos and working with the materials. Make sure to check for reruns of this course. 

During each week of the course, you will watch as chefs reveal the secrets behind some of their most famous culinary creations — often right in their own restaurants. Inspired by such cooking mastery, the Harvard team will then explain, in simple and sophisticated ways, the science behind the recipe.

Topics will include: soft matter materials, such as emulsions, illustrated by aioli; elasticity, exemplified by the done-ness of a steak; and diffusion, revealed by the phenomenon of spherification, the culinary technique pioneered by Ferran Adrià.

To help you make the link between cooking and science, an “equation of the week” will capture the core scientific concept being explored. You will also have the opportunity to be an experimental scientist in your very own laboratory — your kitchen. By following along with the engaging recipe of the week, taking measurements, and making observations, you will learn to think both like a cook and a scientist. The lab is also one of the most unique components of this course — after all, in what other science course do you get to eat your lab?

Before your course starts, try the new edX Demo where you can explore the fun, interactive learning environment and virtual labs. Learn more.


Simply Audit this Course

Can't commit to all of the lectures, assignments, and tests? Audit this course and have complete access to all of the course material, tests, and the online discussion forum. You can decide what and how much you want to do. This option is free to all.

Try for a Certificate

Participate in all of the course's activities and abide by the edX Honor Code. If your work is satisfactory, you'll receive a certificate to showcase your achievement. This option is free to all.


Earn Harvard Credit

Optionally, you can enroll in the traditional, semester-long course at Harvard Extension School. Courses are offered in fall or spring semesters, or both. You have the option to enroll for undergraduate or graduate credit and will receive grades on a Harvard transcript. Learn more about the course on the Harvard Extension School website.


Course Staff

  • Michael Brenner

    Michael Brenner is the Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics, and Harvard College Professor at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He developed the popular Harvard class, "Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter," with his colleague David Weitz and chef Ferran Adrià. His research uses mathematics to examine a wide variety of problems in science and engineering, ranging from understanding the shapes of bird beaks, whale flippers and fungal spores, to finding the principles for designing materials that can assemble themselves, to answering ordinary questions about daily life, such as why a droplet of fluid splashes when it collides with a solid surface.

  • David Weitz

    David Weitz is a Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Physics. He developed the popular Harvard class, "Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter," with his colleague Michael Brenner and chef Ferran Adrià. His research group studies the science of soft matter materials as well as biophysics and biotechnology.

  • Pia Sörensen

    Pia Sörensen is Preceptor of Science and Cooking at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, and the HarvardX Fellow for Science & CookingX. She earned her PhD in Chemical Biology at Harvard University, studying small molecule inhibitors of cell division.

  • Ferran Adrià

    Culinary Advisor: Ferran Adrià was the chef and owner of restaurant elBulli in Roses, Spain, the only restaurant to have been voted number one in the world a record five times by the World’s 50 best restaurant list. He is founder of the elBulli Foundation, a creative initiative intended to keep pushing the limits of culinary invention. His books include: A day at elBulli, Modern Gastronomy A to Z, and other books

  • Pere Castells

    Culinary Advisor: Pere Castells is a chemist, teacher, and former head of the Alícia Foundation’s Scientific Research Department in Barcelona, Spain. He is currently coordinating the research project UB-Bullipèdia with the elBulli Foundation.

  • Daniel Rosenberg

    Science Demo Guru: Daniel Rosenberg of Harvard University is the master mind behind the science demos in the course.

  • Harold McGee

    Culinary Expert: Harold McGee is an expert on the chemistry, technique, and history of food, and will appear regularly, sharing his insights on these topics. He is the author of many books and articles, including the textbook for the course: On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. 

  • Nathan Myhrvold

    Culinary Expert: Nathan Myhrvold is the principal author of the five volume cookbook Modernist Cuisine, Modernist Cuisine at Home and author of the forthcoming The Photography of Modernist Cuisine. 

    Students of SPU27X get a 20% discount on the ebook Modernist Cuisine at Home. Apply "SPU27X20" at check out. This discount is available until January 1, 2014. 

  • Dan Souza

    Culinary Expert: Dan Souza is a senior editor at Cook's Illustrated and cast member of the America's Test Kitchen television show. Dan developed the test kitchen experiments for The Science of Good Cooking. He will be a regular contributor to the course. Dan's twitter handle is @testcook.

  • José Andres

    Chef: José Andres is  the founder of ThinkFood Group and chef and owner of several restaurants including Minibar, Jaleo and The Bazaar. His books include Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen and Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.

  • Dave Arnold

    Chef: Dave Arnold is chef and owner of the bar Booker and Dax in New York City. He is also the founder of the Museum of Food and Drink and writes on Culinary Technology developments in the blog Cooking Issues.

  • Dan Barber

    Chef: Dan Barber is chef and co-owner of Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY. He serves on the President's Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture's board of directors. Dan is the author of several talks and articles and the forthcoming book The Third Plate (Spring 2014). @danbarber

  • Joanne Chang

    Chef: Joanne Chang is chef and owner of Flour Bakery and Myers + Chang in Boston, MA. She is the author of two books: Flour: Spectacular recipes from Boston’s Flour bakery + Café and Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for the Cafés Most Loved Sweets and Savories.

  • David Chang

    Chef: David Chang is chef and owner of the Momofuku restaurant group, including the two Michelin starred Momfuku Ko in New York City. He is the author of Momofuku cookbook, Milk Bar Cookbook and other books, and also publishes the quarterly journal Lucky Peach Magazine.

  • Wylie Dufresne

    Chef: Wylie Dufresne is chef and owner of the Michelin starred restaurant wd-50 and the gastropub Alder in New York City.

  • Nandu Jubany

    Chef: Nandu Jubany is chef and owner of the Michelin starred restaurant Can Jubany in Vic, Spain. 

  • Joan Roca

    Chef: Joan Roca is chef and owner of restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, outside Girona, Spain. The restaurant, run in collaboration with his two brothers, Josep and Jordi Roca, was recently voted best restaurant in the world by the World’s 50 best restaurant list and has three Michelin stars. Books include Sous-Vide Cuisine and El Celler de Can Roca.

  • Enric Rovira

    Chef: Enric Rovira, based in Barcelona, is one of Spain’s most celebrated Master Chocolatiers

  • Carme Ruscalleda

    Chef: Carme Ruscalleda is chef and owner of restaurants  Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mar, Spain, Sant Pau de Tòquio, Japan, and Moments in Barcelona, Spain. The three restaurants have been awarded six Michelin stars combined. She is the author of CR20: 20 Years of the Sant Pau, Carme Ruscalleda’s Mediterranean Cuisine, and several other books.

  • Ted Russin

    Ted Russin is the Director of Consulting at the Culinary Institute of America. A food chemist with culinary training Ted has experience in both culinary and industrial food process and product design. He has collaborated with chefs such as Wylie Dufresne, Thomas Keller, and Corey Lee. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and in the Cooking Channel Special “Geek-A-Licious”.

  • Carles Tejedor

    Chef: Carles Tejedor is the chef of restaurant Via Veneto in Barcelona, Spain. He is also the founder of Oilab, a virtual space devoted to research and development of culinary oil products.

  • Bill Yosses

    Chef: Bill Yosses is White House Executive Pastry Chef in Washington, DC. He is the author of The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion

  • 8 October 2013
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  • Language: English Gb


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