Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Food Mechanic

PostedNovember 24, 2018

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LEDE: Dreaming of Thanksgiving leftovers? What makes food taste good, or not? Chemistry is, perhaps, an obvious answer. But you probably didn’t think about mechanics.

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

Phillip LeDuc: And I said, you know, 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: And he goes, “and 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? 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.