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An online foodie revolution: MOOC craze pulls top restaurant chefs into the learning game

MOOC classes seem to be taking over the world. Why not the foodie world too? Courtesy of Online Learning
Ferran Adrià
World-class chefs like Ferran Adrià are jumping into the land of online learning. Courtesy of Cooking Masters
Ferran Adrià
News_Marene Gustin_columnist_mug_head shot

Here’s a word that may be new to foodies: MOOC.

Techies, TED fans and educational folks probably know about MOOC, massive open online courses, but foodies should also jump on this bandwagon.

In particular I like Coursera launched last year with $22 million in capital and just garnered another $43 million in investments this summer. According to Business Insider, it is one of the dominant players in the $4.5 trillion learning industry with four million students (four million and one since I joined).  It works with 83 educational institutions across four continents and offers about 400 free college-level courses online.

 Some MOOC sites do offer certification programs, but those sometimes have costs to them. And they don’t offer keggers. 

These courses are taught by some of the best professors at the best universities in the world. You can participate fully in the university experience by completing assignments, interacting with professors and other students or you can just watch the video lessons.

Coursera currently offers such courses as Child Nutrition and Cooking from Stanford University; The New Nordic Diet from the University of Copenhagen; Economic Issues, Food and You from the University of Florida and the fascinating The Science of Gastronomy by professor King Lau Chow and professor Lam Lung Yeung of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which I just finished auditing. The six-week course started last month and just finished, but you can check out other food related courses coming up.

As the professors explain the course, “Gastronomy is a subject that is emerging with more and more integration of culinary studies and science. We are sure that it will offer you a whole new experience next time to step into a restaurant learning how deception and psychology trick you to eat more and make you enjoy the entire process. The course materials will give you a taste of the key elements in food preparation and how to apply these rules to invent your own dishes.

"With sufficient practice, it may be the beginning of your new hobby, treating yourself and your friends with exploratory methods of cooking supported with sound scientific experimentation.”

Online Learning

Did you know that people started cooking food somewhere between 300,000 to two million years ago?

I learned that along with other fun facts such as: How do you know when you’re full? Or what factors affect your choice of food? Did you know that adding salt to boiling water raises the temperature of the water?

Yes, there is a lot of science involved, not exactly my strong suit, but there is also a wealth of practical information about cooking like how to select and cook the perfect steak.

MOOC has been debated by the university world since sites first cropped up, and while The New York Times declared last year the Year of The MOOC it remains to be seen if the phenomenon will ever replace a regular college education. Some MOOC sites do offer certification programs, but those sometimes have costs to them. And they don’t offer keggers.

 MOOC profs can’t actually taste your sauce or feel the doneness of your steak. 

But if you just want to learn new stuff, they offer a way for people not near a university, or those who don’t have the time or money for traditional classes, to expand their minds.

Besides Coursera, the other two most popular MOOC sites are Udacity, which doesn’t appear to offer any food courses I am interested in, and edX that has a course starting in October titled Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science. Harvard professors and famous chefs including Ferran Adrià will teach this course.

I’ll probably just audit it, but if you complete the course work you can earn a certificate of mastery. But then what are you going to do with that? It’s not like MOOC sites can ever replace cooking schools where you are graded on what you create. MOOC profs can’t actually taste your sauce or feel the doneness of your steak.

But whatever the future holds for MOOC sites, they can be fun for foodies. Just bring your laptop into the kitchen, log on and fire up that saucepan.

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