When chefs meet geneticists

One would think that the people who create new foods and the people who whip up new ways of enjoying them would have long been partners. But cooperation between plant breeders and chefs is historically rare; traditionally, breeders stick to the field and chefs to the kitchen, opposite ends of an increasingly long and complicated food chain. Lane Selman, an agricultural researcher at Oregon State University (OSU) and the emcee of the Portland feast, wants to change that. She recently founded the Culinary Breeding Network (CBN), a first-of-its-kind organization that fosters collaboration between cooks, farmers, plant breeders, and seed growers. Breeders are often “making a lot of the decisions alone, guessing what the consumer, chef, or institutional kitchen cook needs and wants from their produce,” Selman explains. She has chefs tour breeding plots to “witness diversity with their own eyes, hands, and mouths” and give breeders direct feedback. It’s a kind of immediate and powerful synergy that just makes sense: “Breeders bring knowledge of stored seeds and wild relatives. Chefs know how to evaluate flavor much better than we do.” Case in point: Mazourek was microwaving squash for taste tests until a chef educated him in proper roasting techniques.

That's from an interesting article in Pacific Standard arguing that fruits and vegetables are about to enter a flavor Renaissance.