If you’re lucky enough to visit the NYU Food Lab while class is in session, you’ll be greeted by the inviting scent of delicious food. And it’s delicious food cooked properly. Here, students don’t just have the opportunity to cook nutritious, sustainable meals. They also learn the whys, hows, and science behind preparing everything from poultry to pastries.
A New World of Learning
Regardless of which class you take at the Food Lab, each session ends with a meal. From cooking with plant-based proteins to photographing a perfectly plated dish, there’s a class at the Food Lab for every gastronomic interest.
“The Food Lab intrigued me because it implements a lot of things I’d studied in my other labs,” says Andrea Parra Silva. She’s a senior Biology major at NYU Shanghai. Andrea took a class called Introduction to Foods and Food Science as an elective while studying abroad in New York City. “During the lessons, we went back to the molecular side of things. We learned amazing things in the classroom. Then we tested them in the kitchen. There’s a science behind cooking, and I really like how the Food Lab ties everything together.”
For Jeanine Toussaint, a sophomore majoring in Nutrition and Food Studies with a concentration in nutrition and dietetics at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the Food Lab classes have been some of her favorites. Reflecting on her experience taking Food Science and Technology, she says, “We gained practical experience and learned about food in a real way. We taste-tested the food and asked, ‘Is this really different? If so, how?’”
Jeanine recalls one lesson on the use of additives, like MSG and pectin, that really impacted her. “We evaluated the thickness and appearance of jams and jellies. Then we observed how they’re used in the commercial sense. Some foods are not appealing to the eye, which is why an additive is used. It makes it more appealing to the consumer, which makes it sell better in the market. It was a whole new world of learning.”
From the Kitchen to Your Career
While courses are open to students from across NYU’s schools and colleges, the Steinhardt Department of Nutrition and Food Studies houses the Food Lab. For students studying nutrition and dietetics, the opportunity to gain experience in a state-of-the-art, commercial-grade kitchen is invaluable. It provides them with the experience needed to build their careers and teach others in the future.
“Going into nutrition, especially if I go into counseling, I need to understand how to cook and prepare food,” says Tillie Lewis. She is a senior Nutrition and Dietetics major who works as a lab assistant in the Food Lab. So far, she’s made a variety of delectable, healthy dishes, including her favorite, spiced chocolate tofu pudding. “It’s helpful because I can confidently tell clients and patients how to cook properly. Plus, I have recipes to give people so they understand what makes a meal healthy. Ultimately, you can only learn so much in a classroom setting. So having this kitchen experience is important.”
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