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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UC Davis alumnus publishes culinary science book


Ali Bouzari reveals the secret ingredients to understanding food science

UC Davis alumnus Ali Bouzari’s new food science and culinary book, Ingredient, examines the scientific agents that help us cook our food. The book serves as an illustrated guide to cooking for people of all culinary levels, and introduces readers to the behind-the-scenes ingredients responsible for food production.

After obtaining his Ph.D. in food biochemistry from UC Davis in 2014, Bouzari worked with chefs, food scientists and culinary students and helped lead cooking seminars. He was inspired to create a guide that helped cooks across a spectrum of skill levels easily understand the fundamentals of cooking.

“The idea that I could write something that could be applicable to a paleo-nutritionist, a chef in a fine dining restaurant and my grandmother cooking food for Thanksgiving — the idea that one set of principles in one book could help all of those people do exactly what they wanted to do better was really intriguing to me,” Bouzari said.

In his book, Bouzari describes eight key Ingredients (with a capital “I”), which include water, sugars, carbs, lipids, proteins, minerals, gases and heat. These Ingredients act as fundamental building blocks that work behind the scenes in the foods we cook.

Bouzari personifies each Ingredient in its own chapter and provides vivid images to keep readers engaged and actively thinking.

“Being able to visualize and grasp the concepts at play is very important to [Bouzari],” Tyler Simons, graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Technology and colleague of Bouzari, said. “The book is only about one-third text with the rest being photographs and illustrations. This format creates an environment that is hands-on and intuitive while teaching the scientific principles behind the world of food science. It’s not a book designed for Ph.D level scientists; it’s a book designed for anyone who wants to understand the world of food a little bit better.”

The book also explains how Ingredients work behind the scenes when regular ingredients are limited. In doing so, said Bouzari, readers will have a better scientific understanding of what happens during the process of cooking.

Bouzari was recently featured on Zagat’s 2014 30 under 30 and Forbes’ 2015 30 under 30 and is currently the chief science officer of Pilot R+D, a culinary development company based in Northern California.

Although Bouzari has moved away from food science research, he still attributes some of his understanding of food and culinary science to his time at UC Davis.

“[Bouzari] is incredibly passionate about food science,” said Dirk Holstege, a professor of environmental toxicology and colleague of Bouzari. “He’s very entrepreneurial and has always been a hard worker.”

According to Simons, Bouzari’s book provides a basis and context for every recipe, cookbook and restaurant meal, helping readers to truly understand what’s going on under the hood of their barbecue brisket or grilled cheese sandwich.


Written by: Emma Sadlowski – science@theaggie.org


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