Have you ever noticed that when you go to someone’s house for a birthday party or a holiday celebration, everyone gravitates to the kitchen?
Kitchens are the heart of the home because that’s where the food is! And cooking the food is more than a mother’s nourishing gesture. It’s a fascinating science experiment that involves chemical reactions, physical transformations, and biological processes. Every time your grandmother bakes a cake, for example, she uses ingredients that react with each other to create carbon dioxide, causing the cake to rise. When you fry an egg, you use heat to change the structure of the egg white and yolk proteins, solidifying them. When we cook, we’re learning to think like scientists without realizing it.
That’s the premise behind the new Cr(EAT)e Culinary Studio featuring the Kroger Food Lab, scheduled to open in November at Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC). The concept, which originated as an idea for a food science lab, evolved into a vision of a versatile venue for hosting a wide array of tempting food- and science-related events for CMC visitors of all ages and cooking skill levels throughout the year.
“We wanted to bring more modern and applied sciences into our content offerings,” says CMC President and CEO Elizabeth Pierce. “Our museum is already a center where science, history and early childhood converge, so we decided to put a food lens on that.”
According to Pierce, the Cr(EAT)e Culinary Studio is just the right blend of food, cooking and socializing, resulting in a vibrant representation of Cincinnati’s diverse heritage. It’s about celebrating the city’s many cultures by bringing them to life via captivating cuisine.
CMC transformed a former retail store in Union Terminal — the iconic Art Deco masterpiece that houses the Cincinnati Museum Center— into the 3,000-square-foot multipurpose Cr(EAT)e Culinary Studio, opening up an abundance of possibilities.
Corporate meetings, luncheons, summer food science camps for kids and beer-making workshops for adults are just some of the events on the studio’s activity menu. CMC also plans to collaborate with community partners to showcase their food-related work.
Renowned chefs and experts from the Midwest Culinary Institute, Cincinnati State Community College, Findlay Kitchen, Turner Teaching Kitchen, and Osher Center for Integrative Health & Wellness will guide attendees through the secrets of the kitchen as they relate to the wonders of science.
Pierce recalls she was awestruck when she perused Nathan Myhrvold’s massive cookbook titled “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.” It was filled with incredible photographs.
“He cut a Weber stove in half and did frame-by-frame photographs of what happens to food as you’re cooking it,” Pierce explains. “He documented all of these scientific activities happening with the physics and chemistry of cooking. That, paired with our desire to bring more real science to life, gave rise to this idea of a food pathway to a variety of activities and events.”
She notes that CMC received two National Science Foundation grants to demonstrate and publish research on teaching science concepts through food. The museum partnered with Kent State University and La Soupe, a nonprofit food rescue organization in Cincinnati, resulting in impressive data confirming how cooking improves science learning at home.
“We are excited to open up this space to our community partners involved in the fascinating world of food and science,” Pierce continues. “This is a chance for them to showcase their groundbreaking work and for our visitors to enjoy a unique interactive experience.”
This past summer, CMC organized indoor camps where children prepped and made food, including cheese, pizza dough and sushi. The air filled with the aroma of freshly baked treats as campers competed in a friendly junior bake-off.
Adds Pierce, “It was a fun dynamic.”
The large, welcoming windows of the Cr(EAT)e Culinary Studio offer a peek inside, enticing CMC visitors with intriguing views of food-related artifact displays. It’s the ideal retreat for imaginative individuals with a penchant for learning more about the connection between cooking and science.
Furthermore, CMC’s treasure trove of historical artifacts emphasizes food’s integral role in driving the Cincinnati community in various ways. For example, several photos pertain to Barney Kroger’s initial green grocery endeavors and Findlay Market’s founding. CMC also plans an exhibit highlighting the history of local breweries as well as Cincinnati’s meatpacking and spice processing industries. In addition, Pierce anticipates producing wall displays heralding recipes from the museum’s various collections, including those discovered in diaries that were part of CMC’s “Our Shared Story: 200 Years of Jewish Cincinnati” exhibition.
Pierce points out that activating historical recipes is another way to bring culture, history and science together. “Bring your grandmother’s recipes and see if we can still cook with them today,” she suggests. “Have the ingredients changed, or is the meal as delightful as it was 100 years ago? I think it’s another path to understanding the community’s past and getting people excited about where we are today.”
Whether you are a seasoned chef or a cooking novice, the Cr(EAT)e Culinary Studio featuring the Kroger Food Lab promises to provide an educational adventure that pleases the palate and invigorates the mind.
Ready to experience all that Cincinnati Museum Center has to offer? For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit cincymuseum.org, or call 513-287-7000. Cincinnati Museum Center is located at 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45203.