'Flavor Network' pairs foods based on chemical compounds

Physicist Albert-László Barabási and his research team are studying food and in particular the way we eat. Their work directly challenges the 1992 food pairing hypothesis by chefs Heston Blumenthal and François Benzi, which claims that "great food can be created when food components, with a common flavor, are combined."

Instead Barabási asks the following question in Scientific Reports: “Are there any quantifiable and reproducible principles behind our choice of certain ingredient combinations and avoidance of others?” In other words, he and his colleagues want to know if there's more to it that simply "ingredients will work well together in a dish if they share similar flavors."

To simplify things, Barabási's team made a flavor network that links foods by how closely their chemical compounds are linked. Then they studied different cuisines from around the world and found that some follow the similar flavor rule touted in the food pairing hypothesis and others didn't pay attention to common flavor pairings at all. Well now, that's a pickle.

Barabási's goal is to learn why we prefer one combination of ingredients over another. After that, the flavor network will become more sophisticated and can then be used with "creative" computers to build ideal, scrumptious meals with ease. Wait, are human chefs about to become extinct?

YouTube, via Science and Food

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