A Look at Culinology
At first glance, culinology seems like something out of a science fiction novel. Part nutrition, part purely artistic endeavor, and part technology, culinology is all about finding ways to make food better: taste better, look better, and last longer. From the kitchen to production lines, it is the next wave in a long line of culinary pursuits designed to push the limits of what people expect from the food they eat in restaurants or purchase at the grocery store.
As a scientific field, culinology was first developed by the Research Chefs Association (RCA), a national body of over 2,500 food professionals, in 1996. With members that span the culinary field, including chefs, food scientists, and other researchers, the goal of the organization is to look ahead to the next wave of food development.
The Research Chefs Association offers workshops, certification courses, and continuing education credits – all of which are designed to boost the skills of culinary professionals interested in the field.
What Does a Culinologist Do?
Like molecular gastronomists, culinologists tap into modern technology as a way to prepare and present foods. From new cooking techniques to how technology like microwaves change the cooking process, culinology investigates the newest ways that food can be prepared for human consumption. This includes “changing” traditional recipes by using new technology as well as coming up with unique foods based on ingredients, skills, and tools that didn’t exist as recently as twenty years ago.
As a scientific field, culinology goes beyond just the cooking aspect to include food manufacturing at the industrial level, often in conjunction with billion-dollar companies that want to streamline food production, development, and quality. In this way, culinologists are more like food developers and scientists than just chefs, since their objective is about finding new ways to make good food accessible to the whole world.
Because it is still a relatively new field, becoming a culinologist isn’t necessarily going to increase a new cook’s chances of landing a job at a traditional restaurant or commercial organization. However, becoming part of the Research Chefs Association can offer great networking and learning opportunities, as well as open doors to food-related careers that recent culinary school graduates may not have considered before. Many of the RCA gatherings also provide more information on furthering a culinary career.
The Culinologist Program
The Research Chefs Association is the only organization offering the copyrighted culinology course. Upon graduation from one of their courses and with a passing score on the exam, professionals become either Certified Research Chefs or Certified Culinary Scientists. Offered year-round, the workshops can be found at affiliated educational institutions throughout the United States and Canada.
The RCA program is offered in four parts. Each part is provided as a three-day workshop, and may be taken one after the other or throughout a longer interim. The workshops currently provided by the RCA include:
- Foundations in Food Science, which features education on the different types of food groups, food additives, and food interactions.
- Food Safety, Regulations, Packaging, and Sensory Evaluation, which addresses government regulations and issues of food packaging and shelf life.
- Basics of Food Processing and Food Systems, with a focus on cooking processes.
- Development of Food Systems and Commercialization, which is a final course on flavor, product development, and large scale production.
In order to get the certification through the Research Chefs Association, professionals must go through all four workshops. Additional features like an annual conference and special classes are also offered throughout the year, allowing RCA members to expand their knowledge and meet with others interested in the subject.
Where to Learn More about Culinology
Because the Research Chefs Association is the only copyrighted provider of culinology training and certification, those interested in the certification should be sure to take workshops recognized by the organization. You can visit their website at http://www.culinology.com/ to learn more.
The RCA also recognizes that contributions to the field of food science should be available to everyone. To that end, culinary professionals interested in pursuing a culinology certification may qualify for financial assistance to the RCA’s programs.
Additional resources include the Culinology Magazine, which features articles on some of the “hot” culinology topics like food safety as well as recipes that tap into some of the new technologies that culinologists are working on right now.