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Science and gastronomy together in the Brainy Tongue project


Mar, 19/07/2016 - 19:31

Science and gastronomy together in the Brainy Tongue project

  • Mugaritz, Centre for Genomic Regulation and Basque Culinary Center present Brainy Tongue, a project to explore the empirical knowledge and conceptual understanding of aspects involved in perception, through science and cooking.
  • The initiative unites two disciplines for which Spain is renowned internationally, like biomedical research and high cuisine, to merge and deepen the understanding of sensory awareness.  
  • The first action will be the workshop “The Sensory Logic of the Gastronomic Brain”, which brings together scientists such as Adrian Cheok, Charles Spence, Charles Zuker and Leslie Vosshall and chefs of the standing of Heston Blumenthal, Eneko Atxa and Janice Wong.

With the aim of generating an exchange between science and cooking that sheds light on the field of sensory awareness, Andoni Luis Aduriz, from Mugaritz (Errenteria), Luis Serrano and Matthieu Louis, from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (Barcelona) and Joxe Mari Aizega, director of the Basque Culinary Center (San Sebastian) have presented today, from the CRG headquarters, Brainy Tongue, an inter-disciplinary project of cooperation that seeks to explore the mysteries that govern perception.

"It is exciting to think that Brainy Tongue could serve to identify problems, generate hypotheses and propose principles that enrich not only the gastronomic experience but also research into aspects relevant for society.  We imagine this as a collective network for cooperation and learning", explained Andoni Luis Aduriz, chef of Mugaritz.

The first activity promoted by Brainy Tongue is the workshop `The Sensory Logic of the Gastronomic Brain´ which will be held from 24 to 26 October, in the Basque Culinary Center.

The Sensory Logic of the Gastronomic Brain
Is it possible to design gastronomic experiences according to the genetic profile of the diners? What stimuli do we receive when we eat: how do we perceive and integrate them? How do we model behaviours at and away from the table? What role do expectations play during a tasting menu? Can we transfer this knowledge beyond the gastronomic experience and bring it to the field of health?

Questions like these will form part of the rich debate that will take place among the experts, with the aim of exploring to what extent science can give a response to the questions that emerge from the chefs' observations in the kitchen. And also to what point these observations may give rise to new lines of research.

“Scientists will try to give mechanistic explanations to the chefs empirical observations. Chefs will be able to use this knowledge to design new experiences. Also, understanding the functioning of the gastronomic brain will allow us to make predictions and get to offer, for example, personalised food and even to create artificial sensory impressions,” commented Matthieu Louis, group leader at the Centre for Genomic Regulation.

The workshop´The Sensory Logic of the Gastronomic Brain´ will be held from 24 to 26 October in the Basque Culinary Center, with the participation of some 20 top-level experts, including renowned geneticists, engineers, physicists and neuroscientists from all over the world and from such prestigious universities as Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, the Weizmann Institute of Israel and the universities of Rockefeller and Columbia in the US, among others.

The first two days will be closed-door sessions between scientists and chefs, involving workshops, talks and debates. The third day will consist on an open session to the public with conferences and interactive dynamics linked to themes of perception, as well as to conclusions reached by the experts during their previous two days of working. To participate in this final session it is necessary to register beforehand by sending an email.

An unprecedented event, The Sensory Logic of the Gastronomic Brain will gather internationally recognized experts such as Adrian Cheok (Mixed Reality Lab) from Singapore, Bernard Lahousse (Foodpairing) from Belgium; Matthieu Louis (Centre for Genomic Regulation), from Spain, Zach Mainen (Champalimaud Foundation) from Portugal; Irene Miguel-Aliaga (MRC Clinical Sciences Centre - Imperial College London), Charles Spence (University of Oxford) and Stephen O’Rahilly, (University of Cambridge) from the UK; in addition to Alex Pouget (Geneva University) from Switzerland; Dana Small (The John B. Pierce Laboratory), Leslie Vosshall (Rockefeller University), and Charles Zuker (Columbia University) from USA; and also Noam Sobel (Weizmann University) from Israel.

Some of the chefs who will take part are Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz) and Eneko Atxa (Azurmendi), from the Basque Country, as well as Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck) and Jozef Youssef (Kitchen Theory), from the UK; Kyle Connaughton (Pilot R&D), Leah Sarris (Tulane University) and Chris Young (ChefSteps) from the USA, in addition to Janice Wong (2am:dessertbar) from Singapore.

It will be organized and promoted by Mugaritz, Centre for Genomic Regulation, and  Basque Culinary Center; with the support of the Basque Government, and collaboration of the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre - Imperial College London.

"The fact that so many profiles and institutions are involved shows the interest in sharing knowledge and advancing in the notions that interest the whole community of stakeholders with whom we want to contribute" stated Joxe Mari Aizega, director of BCC.

"Spain is an international benchmark in gastronomy and it also gained a leading position in biomedical research.  The enormous advances obtained in both fields have encouraged us to lead this project which is committed to dialogue and cooperation. In short, an international initiative of great importance which is honoured with the participation of the best professionals in both sectors in experiments, workshops and seminars where we will explore themes of interest both for cooking and science", affirmed Luis Serrano, director of the Centre for Genomic Regulation.


About Mugaritz
Mugaritz has consolidated a pioneering concept of dine dining, research and experimentation, renowned for its innovative and creative capacity beyond the gastronomic field. With two Michelin stars in Errenteria (Basque Country) and more than a decade in the TOP 10 list of "The World's 50 Best Restaurants", it insists on breaking the barriers of perception and on employing gastronomy as a starting point for the development of interdisciplinary projects. Its interest in science led to the cooperation with technological centres such as AZTI-Tecnalia, with whom it created the first science and gastronomy magazine in the sector - International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science - published today by Elsevier.

About the Centre for Genomic Regulation
It is an international institute for biomedical research created in Barcelona in 2000 as a non-profit foundation with the aim of discovering and advancing in knowledge to the benefit of society and public health. The CRG believes that medicine of the future will depend on how innovative science is today. For this reason, it works with an interdisciplinary scientific team focused on understanding the complexity of life, starting with the genome and the cell, moving on to complex organisms and their interactions with the environment, offering furthermore a comprehensive view of genetic diseases.

About the Basque Culinary Center
The Basque Culinary Center is an academic institution dedicated to higher education, research, innovation and the promotion of gastronomy as a resource for the social and economic development of society. Since its creation in 2011, in San Sebastian, it has had the support of some of the most influential chefs in the world and entities such as the University of Mondragon in its mission to constitute an outstanding international reference.


For more information and interviews:
Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) - Laia Cendrós, press officer - Tel. +34 93 316 0237