Brainy Tongue: the kitchen through the mind

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Brainy Tongue is a project based on ties; a dialogue between neuroscience and gastronomy. It is where doubts and concerns that arise in the kitchen are poured into and compared to those which equally emerge in the scientific world. It is an initiative that emerges from curiosity and from the desire to understand things.


Savory tale 1.  from Mugaritz on Vimeo.

In this progression forward which we refer to as the avant-garde, doubt has been a constant drive. We are intrigued by the invisible logic that underlies processes with which cooks normally manage through experience. Another drive, which is not the least, has been questioning things from different angles. It has brought us closer to other disciplines, dragging a core of interactions so broad as life itself. We do not stay in the kitchen, we escape to other places, always seeking to bring something back, shuffling concepts or notions from other specialties to our field. It therefore explains the fascination we have maintained with literature, philosophy, art, film, music, botany, nutrition… as well as science.

Although the bond between science and cuisine has been weaved together continuously throughout history, it was only some 25 years ago that it began to narrow itself down. The first specialised international conference: “Physical and Molecular gastronomy” was held in 1992 in Sicily. Thereafter, we saw a physicist like Peter Barham actively collaborate with Heston Blumenthal, the scientist, Hervé This work with Pierre Gagnaire or the Italian scientist Davide Cassi exchange ideas with Ettore Bocchia. It does not stop to surprise us the work of researchers like Harold McGee, who, since the publication of On Science and Cooking (1984), has been a lifesaver for those who are overflowed in questions.

For many it has been fascinating to see how the approach towards the world of neuroscience soon paved the way for what we now know as “neurogastronomy”. With this, we have absorbed the keys to influence the emotions of our diner, and take advantage of information on how our sensory or neural system operates. Neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio showed us that words do not substitute food even though they of crucial importance in the expectation and mood of the diner. This was reflected in our communication: the names of the dishes, the words used by our colleagues in the front of house and reservations department. We should take care of language.

The kitchen has a lot to learn from science, and what is most beautiful is that science may win thanks to the kitchen. Perhaps this was most interesting; seeing scientists increasingly appealed by the kitchen to confirm phenomenas, share paradoxes and again, seek answers to questions recently shared.

The journey that moves the path of opportunities leads us to a new ‘seed’, the Brainy Tongue project. It is a collaborative commitment and a dialogue between scientists and chefs who seek to bring light to the field of sensoriality and delve into the mysteries governing perception.