Brandon Royal’s photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anthony Bourdain.
Brandon Royal’s photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anthony Bourdain.

Food, Science, and Culture, with Anthony Bourdain

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anthony Bourdain. Credit: Brandon Royal.

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About This Episode

This episode was recorded before the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain in 2018.

Food, science, and culture. These three words are the theme for our Season 10 premiere of StarTalk Radio. Neil deGrasse Tyson sits down with chef, author, and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain to discuss the intersection of food, science, culture, and much, much more. Neil is joined in-studio by comic co-host Sasheer Zamata and food scientist Guy Crosby, PhD. You’ll hear about Anthony’s upbringing and how his educational experiences, like dissecting frogs, influenced his career path.

Find out more about the subjectivity of taste and why not everyone likes the same things. Get details on the genetic differences that cause people to taste things differently. Explore how the brain creates the imagery of flavor in your mind. Neil and Sasheer bond over a dislike of candy corn. You’ll learn about science’s role in the kitchen, and why most cooking is more about the decay process rather than about something being “fresh.” Discover the difference between fermentation and regular rotting. Sasheer tells us her hesitations about milk expiration dates. We investigate eating in space and why things taste different at altitude. You’ll hear about the connections between geography and spicy food. Neil shares his experience about the spiciest food he’s ever eaten, and he and Anthony ponder why some people claim there’s secretly opium in really spicy foods. StarTalk All-Stars host and “science correspondent” Natalia Reagan visits the HEATONIST shop to test some of the world’s spiciest hot sauces alongside hot sauce guru Noah Chaimberg.

Next up, we dive into molecular gastronomy. Chemical scientist and writer “SciBabe” Yvette d’Entremont stops in to help us understand some food chemistry. Guy shows us a demonstration of reverse cooking with liquid nitrogen. We answer your fan-submitted Cosmic Queries on organic foods and why natural doesn’t always mean better. Lastly, you’ll also hear about lab-grown meat and its future in society. All that, plus, Anthony talks about how his experiences in Antarctica and Beirut impacted his understanding of the world around us.

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