Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Food Mechanic

PostedNovember 24, 2013

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Anchor Lead: What makes our food taste good? Chemistry is, perhaps, an obvious answer. But you probably didn’t think about mechanics.

Randy Atkins: Neither did Phillip LaDuc, a mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University. So he was puzzled when a ketchup company executive asked for his advice.

Phillip LeDuc: I said, I really don’t do food.

Randy Atkins: But the exec insisted, saying prepping and bottling tomatoes to make ketchup is all about mechanics.

Phillip LeDuc: He goes, "depending upon just how you mash the tomatoes up and how you flow them through the pipe, you can change whether people like or dislike ketchup.’”

Randy Atkins: The same is true of many foods. Not convinced? This Thanksgiving…LeDuc says just think about whether you prefer your potato ingredients carefully hand-mashed or pureed into a…

Phillip LeDuc: … nasty, goopy, gelatinous mess.

Randy Atkins: It changed his perspective, and LeDuc now specializes in culinary mechanics. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.

Anchor Tag: Culinary mechanics can have major impacts on nutrition too. That in next week’s report.