Chef Wylie Dufresne believes in playing with his food—but not in the usual sense of the phrase. In his popular New York restaurant, wd-50, Dufresne applies molecular gastronomy, a field of science that studies the chemistry behind cooking, to create new and unfamiliar dishes.
In his Big Think interview, Dufresne explains the oft-misunderstood field of molecular gastronomy. It isn't just experimentation for experimentation's sake, he says: knowing about food chemistry will make anybody a better cook. "Knowing mechanically how to poach an egg, but not what’s happening to it while it’s poaching is almost an empty knowledge. It’s not as useful as knowing that the egg white proteins are coagulating at this temperature and the yolks are coagulating at that temperature, and so I can control this or that."
Dufresne also says that thanks to this scientific inquiry, we've learned more about cooking in the last 15 years than we have in the 15,000 years prior to that, including debunking a popular myth about steaks: "One of the famous misconceptions for years has been that searing a piece of steak, for instance, seals in the juices; that’s how you keep your steak moist, by searing it on the outside, trapping the juices inside. That was proven to be a fallacy by molecular gastronomy because in fact, anytime you get something super hot, you actually begin to draw the moisture out of it rather than seal it in."
He also weighs in on the great foam debate in cooking, saying that foam has gotten a bad rap. "Engaging something in a new way, whether it be vinegar or butter or a flavor, but carrying it in a new form, is often very exciting to me." He also tells us that the "farm to table" movement is "like smoke and mirrors for the diner." All good restaurants should be using good ingredients without needing to scream that fact from the top of a soap box.
Finally, Dufresne tells us that Scandinavia is the next big culinary hot spot. "They're introducing us, the culinary world, to a whole new group of ingredients that we are unfamiliar with. They're exposing us to a an approach, to a style of cooking, that has been around for a long time, but we're seeing it come back into vogue."
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As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.
Lumina Foundation and Big Think have partnered to bring this entrepreneurial competition to life, and we hope you'll participate! We have narrowed down the competition to four finalists and will be announcing an audience's choice award and a judges' choice award in May.
The creator of the winning video — chosen by Big Think's audience, the Lumina Foundation, and an independent panel of experts (bios below) — will be flown to New York for a taping in the Big Think studio as a way to further promote their vision for a new, disruptive idea in post-secondary education.
Thank you to all of the contestants who spent time submitting applications, and best of luck to our final four competitors.
Finalist: Greater Commons - Todd McLeod
Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod and Andrew Cull, is an organization that helps people live happier, more successful and fulfilling lives through agile learning. The current education system is inefficient and exclusionary, in which many students who end up earning a degree, if at all, enter a career not related to their field of study. Greater Commons solves this problem and gap in post-high school secondary education in a variety of ways. Passionately and diligently, Great Commons helps others obtain skills, knowledge, wisdom, motivation, and inspiration so that they may live better lives.
Finalist: PeerFoward - Keith Frome
PeerForward is an organization dedicated to increasing the education and career success rates of students in low-income schools and communities by mobilizing the power of positive peer influence. PeerForward works with partner schools to select influential students as a part of a team, systemizing the "peer effect." Research in the fields of sociology of schools, social-emotional learning, adult-youth partnerships, and civic education demonstrates that students can have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of their peers. PeerForward is unique through its systemic solutions to post-secondary education.
Finalist: Cogniss - Leon Young
Cogniss combines technology and best practice knowledge to enable anyone to innovate and share solutions that advance lifelong learning. Cogniss is the only platform to integrate neuroscience, through which it solves the problem of access by providing a low-code platform that enables both developers and non-developers to build sophisticated education apps fast, and at a much lower cost. It addresses the uneven quality of edtech solutions by embedding research-based learning design into its software. App creators can choose from a rich set of artificial intelligence, game, social and data analytics, and gamification to build their perfect customized solution.
Finalist: Practera - Nikki James
Practera's mission is to create a world where everyone can learn through experience. Today's workplaces are increasingly dynamic and diverse, however, costly and time-consuming experiential learning is not always able to offer the right opportunities at scale. Many students graduate without developing the essential skills for their chosen career. Practera's team of educators and technologists see this problem as an opportunity to transform the educational experience landscape, through a CPL pedagogical framework and opportunities to apply students' strengths through active feedback.
Thank you to our judges!
Our expert judges are Lorna Davis, Dan Rosensweig, and Stuart Yasgur.
Lorna Davis is the Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and is a Global Ambassador for the B Corp movement. Lorna has now joined B-Lab, the non-for-profit that supports the B Corporation movement on an assignment to support the journey of large multi nationals on the path to using business as a force of good.
Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter.
Stuart Yasgur leads Ashoka's Social Financial Services globally. At Ashoka, Stuart works with others to initiate efforts that have mobilized more than $500 million in funding for social entrepreneurs, engaged the G20 through the Toronto, Seoul and Los Cabos summits and helped form partnerships with leading financial institutions and corporations.
Again, thank you to our incredible expert judges.
- Beethovan and Picasso are the perfect examples for mastering the creative process.
- Behind each of their works are countless studies and sketches.
- The lesson? Never erase anything, keep iterating, and find new paths to familiar destinations.
Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."
- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.
- The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
- Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
- Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
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