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Dr. Valerio  Molinari
Dr. Valerio Molinari
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Kitchen Lab

Some general words
In one way or another, most people are interested in cooking; after all, it is the one of the main reasons that allowed for the evolution of humankind to become what it is today. It is clear that both nutrition and cooking are topics that are very close to the heart of society and culture. This holds true not only for the general public, but also specifically for the scientific community. At the end of the day, chemistry is the basis of cooking. It might not be evident to all, but people can easily “do chemistry” in the comfort of their own homes.

The concept of “molecular gastronomy” has brought scientific tools (such as pipettes and beakers) to the world of cuisine, sparking curiosity towards chemical reactions, as well as providing accessible platforms of credible information and communication. On the other hand, kitchen chemistry not only intends to clarify the undergoing reactions in food processing (already known as “food chemistry”), it moreover aims to generalise previously existing cooking-inspired reactions for the use in basic chemistry. For example, the generation of potential non-edible, but useful materials (many times perceived as the “failures” of cooking). Another case would be the use of cooking-inspired formulations as pharmaceutical vectors, e.g. to make an otherwise non-soluble drug or vitamin more bioavailable for the increased absorption in the human body.

The world of cooking is in fact full of ingenious instruments and molecular solutions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Kitchen chemistry is inspired by this folk knowledge and intends to transfer it to basic chemistry as such, with the mission of keeping science safe, sustainable and comprehensible to the public.

The Constitution of Kitchen Chemistry

  1. Chemistry is the art of converting molecules into one another. To perform this art with food related molecules and products, in edible solvents with technologies known from cooking is named kitchen chemistry
  2. Kitchen Chemistry is thereby in some aspects the ultimate version of green chemistry: the rules of green chemistry hold true, while strong additional restrictions are operative.
  3. No chemicals marked as toxic or hazardous should be applied in kitchen chemistry. Molecules should be mostly edible or at least inert to our health system. Solvents are for instance water, oil, or ethanol; processes are cooking, steaming, baking, or fermentation.
  4. Kitchen chemistry is thereby accessible to laymen, school kids, or pregnant women, and is inherently open to the public. The products created should be harmless (note that many toxins are food-based, i.e. a restriction of the starting molecules is not sufficient).
  5. Preparation of samples should follow simple processes and utilise tools which are mostly found in an ordinary kitchen. Simple chemical processes such as distillation, freeze-drying, spray drying, and ultra-sonication are also allowed.
  6. Preferred starting products should come from ordinary supermarkets, the outside world, available biomass sources, or specialty food suppliers.
  7. The products of kitchen lab are mostly edible. Products may include inert materials (for construction & isolation), cleaning agents (e.g. soaps), cosmeceuticals, or pharmaceutical additives, i.e. chemicals that are in close contact with consumers.
  8. Kitchen chemistry is an embodiment of public science, and its research output to be a form of interactive citizen science. Data are presented and discussed on a public platform and should be in a language accessible to a general audience. The exchange of information is bidirectional.

    Kitchen Chemistry is still a part of ordinary institute operations, i.e. all standard regulations are applicable, as there must be a lab book/“cook book”, and data of relevance must be published. Science supported by the MPG must resolve societal issues and contribute to the benefit of humankind, as all other published research.
 
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