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May 11, 2009, 7:00 PM

Food for Thought: The Je Ne Sais Quoi of Taste

Participants: Dave Arnold, Serge Becker, Stuart Firestein, Alex Guarnaschelli, Mark Mitton, Nils Noren, Philip Pearlstein
A Roundtable, Tour, and Taste Experience at The French Culinary Institute
To Benefit The Philoctetes Center

Monday, May 11, 2009
462 Broadway, New York, NY
Time: 7:00
Cost: $250 per person

Please join us for this unique opportunity to explore the sights, aromas, and tastes of the French Culinary Institute, New York's elite training ground for students of the culinary arts. Seating capacity is 60 and remaining space is limited, so reserve soon.

The Evening's Schedule:

  • Guests arrive and get a tour of the FCI in small groups. They will be able to see students at work cooking and baking all sorts of amazing things.
  • Scent and taste demos by Nils Noren, Vice President of Culinary Arts of The French Culinary Institute and former Executive Chef at Aquavit, and Stuart Firestein, Professor of Neurobiology at Columbia University. Guests will nibble on some of the "demonstrations."
  • Guests move to another room for more tastings and a panel discussion in the Philoctetes roundtable format.
  • After the panel, dessert, tea and coffee will be brought in and guests can get up and mingle.

Please RSVP to: info@philoctetes.org
Send payment by check only to:
The Philoctetes Center
247 E. 82nd St.
New York, NY 10028

Tell me what thou eatest, and I will tell thee what thou art.
-Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, 1848

De gustibus non est disputandum, says an ancient Roman proverb: There is no arguing about taste. A similar saying exists in ancient Hebrew, and likely in other cultures as well, as it expresses the deep personal relationship we all have with food. Taste, or more correctly flavor, stands at the crossroads of nature and nurture, of art and science, of culture and behavior. Humans are the only animals to cook their food, a behavior that leads to communal eating and perhaps to the very emergence of society and all that comes with it—language, art, government, morality. Cooking increases the flavor of food, turns its preparation and consumption into a ritual, creates a skill and an art. From a recent scientific perspective, we are now beginning to understand the neuroscience of the palette. This evening we will hear many sides of the story—the science, the art, the sociology of flavor and food.

David Arnold is Director of Culinary Technology at The French Culinary Institute. He began tinkering with restaurant equipment after earning his MFA from Columbia University's School of the Arts. After meeting Chef Wylie Dufresne, Arnold became even more passionate about all things culinary—the high-tech cooking movement in particular—and focused his engineering and inventing skills on professional and home cooking. Arnold is dedicated to helping chefs achieve their most ambitious goals using new technologies, techniques, and ingredients. He also teaches tech classes, including those that cover sous vide, low-temperature cooking and hydrocolloids, to FCI students. Arnold is Food Arts magazine's Contributing Editor for Equipment & Food Science. Arnold and his work at FCI have been covered in several publications, including Food and Wine, The Economist, and Popular Science, and is own hi-tech kitchen was featured in New York Magazine. In 2004, he founded the Museum of Food and Drink to promote learning about the history and culture of food.

Serge Becker is a creative legend in New York nightlife. He is a partner in New York dining and nightlife staples like The Box, Joe's Pub, Café Select, and La Esquina. His stake in the nightlife industry began as art director at Area and continued with his involvement in some of the city's most exclusive spots (MK, Time Café, Bowery Bar, Lure Fishbar).

Stuart Firestein is Professor of Neurobiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. His research is dedicated to answering the fundamental human question, "How do I smell?" ... which, as we will learn, is a fundamental part of taste.His lab seeks to better understand the molecular, genetic, and physiological mechanisms that make the vertebrate nose the best chemical detector on the planet. Dr. Firestein has received numerous awards and has been a McKnight Scholar and Whitehall Fellow. Most recently, he received the Linville-Wright Award for Research in Olfaction, a Canadian prize administered by Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. He has lectured and taught extensively in North America, Europe and Asia. His work has received support from the Human Frontiers Science Program, NATO, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Institutes of Health, as well as private foundations and industry.

Alex Guarnaschelli is Executive Chef at Butter. Alex started her career working at one of the city's best known kitchens, An American Place, for famed chef Larry Forgione. After receiving a Grande Diplôme from La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy, Alex worked at the Three Star Michelin rated Guy Savoy in Paris for four years. Upon returning to New York, Alex held the position of Fish/Sous Chef at Daniel Boulud's critically acclaimed restaurant. After two years, Chef Guarnaschelli moved to Los Angeles to work with restaurateur Joachim Splichal at Patina, and two years later she was back in Manhattan as Chef at Nick and Stef's Steakhouse. Currently, Chef Guarnaschelli personalizes the menu at Butter by working with the freshest seasonal ingredients from local Greenmarkets.

Mark Mitton (moderator) started doing magic tricks when he was nine years old and never stopped. He was the apprentice to legendary sleight-of-hand master and vaudevillian Slydini and studied Commedia dell'Arte in Italy, physical comedy with David Shiner, and ancient street performing arts in Japan. Mark is fascinated by using magic and crafts as a way to better understand how we all see the world. As a professional sleight-of-hand artist, he has performed for Benoit Mandelbrot, Roald Hoffmann, Salman Rushdie, Greg Maddux, Sienna Miller, John Mayer, Lil' Kim and many others; at festivals in Europe and Asia; at the Olympic Games; in war-torn Liberia and in hospital wards around New York City. He has taught sleight-of-hand to Stanley Tucci and John Travolta for various film projects, and is a consultant on Cirque du Soleil's upcoming production.

Nils Noren is Vice President of Culinary Arts of The French Culinary Institute and The Italian Culinary Academy, both of which reside in New York City's International Culinary Center. He previously spent 10 years at Aquavit, where Marcus Samuelsson appointed him Executive Chef in 2003. A graduate of the Culinary School in Gavle, Sweden, Chef Nils is the embodiment of the new international chef: disciplined in the classic sensibilities and driven by immense creativity, calling on his earlier experience in Stockholm to show the world what Swedish food and cooking techniques are all about.

Philip Pearlstein is an innovative American painter, whose early work focused on landscapes of cliffs and rocks. In the early 1960s he began to make large-scale, realistic figure paintings at a time when abstract painting dominated the American art world. The startling realism of his work, along with its unsentimental emotional tone and connections to surrealism and graphic design, led famed critic Robert Hughes to describe his paintings as "unlike anything seen in American realism since Thomas Eakins." Mr. Pearlstein is also the President Emeritus of The American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Philoctetes Center is a tax-exempt organization under Section 50l(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. No goods or services have been provided for this tax-deductible contribution.


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