Monday, September 18, 2006


Short one this time out, because I’m trying to get over a horrendous summer cold—the kind that makes your head feel like it’s filled with egg custard, and causes similar-looking fluids to emit from your nose and mouth—yuck. And now that I’ve whetted your appetites with that image, this week’s SFGate column is all about food—or more precisely, cooking.


The Formula For Yum
By Jeff Yang, Special to SF Gate

Jeff Yang explores the question: Does the road to deliciousness go through the head or the heart?


The piece is, more or less, an exploration of whether cooking is art or science--or more precisely, a look at how new technologies and scientific methods are invading a discipline that people have historically associated with passion, tradition, and sentiment. One of the most interesting interviews I conducted for the column was with Bryan Zupon, a bright and talented young chef who has embraced the techniques and sensibilities of the "hypermodern" school of cooking. Also known as "molecular gastronomy," hypermodern cuisine uses industrial chemistry and laboratory technology to achieve startling, and sometimes bizarre effects: A typical dessert that Zupon might prepare is the Earl Grey Tea Orb, a confection consisting of a sphere of liquid tea encased in a ball of solid tea jelly, thanks to the magic of modern hydrocolloid gelling agents.

What's unique about Zupon isn't just his age--he's 20 years old and a junior in college--but his entrepreneurial drive: This semester, he's announced that he'll be setting up an eatery in his dorm room on campus, which will serve hypermodern meals for parties of four and up, in exchange for a cash donation. (He's quick to note that he's NOT opening a restaurant or catering facility, which might well be against school regulations, not to mention state tax, housing, and health authority codes.) Zupon's venue is called Z Kitchen (; I'm hoping that I'll have the chance to drop by the next time my wife is visiting her alma mater in the lovely state of North Carolina.

Other quick hits:

Dee Hamaguchi, whom I wrote about in "Warrior Women", shot me a line to say that she's secured another shot at a world title--the WIBA 102 lbs. crown, against Hollie Dunaway in St. Louis, on Sept. 21 at the Ameristar Casino. Dee, who's currently training at New York's famed Gleason's Gym, is inviting the local Asian American community--and anyone else who might be in the St. Louis, MO area--to come watch the fight. "She's a known steroid user, so this should be interesting," she says. Yikes!

More powerful women in the news: Props up to Indra Nooyi, whose ascension to the position of CEO of PepsiCo makes her the first Indian American to head a U.S. company of this scale ($33 billion in annual revenues), and the second most prominent female executive in the Fortune 500, after Patricia Woertz, CEO of agrogiant Archer Daniels Midland. Nooyi was a leader in the company's non-soda growth--one of the brightest spots at the company, whose strategy of diversifying away from cola products has led it to consistent growth over the past five years, and for the first time last December, led to it beating longtime competitor Coke in market cap for the first time in their 108-year rivalry.

Ironically, her appointment comes at a time when cola products are getting slammed in India itself, as a New Delhi-based environmental group and South Indian politicians have barraged Coke and Pepsi with allegations of high levels of pesticides in their products, barring their Indian subsidiaries from making or selling their beverages. Nooyi's appointment has at the least changed the perceptual climate towards Pepsico in one of its biggest opportunity markets, while also impressing analysts on the Street. "Indra Nooyi is truly a star and has been working side by side with Mr. Reinemund over the past several years," Citigroup analyst Bonnie Herzog wrote. "She has been very involved with every major decision PepsiCo has made over the past five-plus years and therefore we expect this transition to be very smooth." Bank of America analyst Brian Spillane added: "One question investors have consistently had the last few years was whether there would be enough to keep Ms. Nooyi interested at Pepsi....This promotion would seem to suggest that there is."

A glass of Pepsi Twist to you, Indra Nooyi--and good luck on the front lines of the global cola wars.

That's it for this installment. Drink lots of fluids, and try to avoid getting infected with late-summar custarditis...


P.S.: Got cable? Don't miss FIGHT SCIENCE on National Geographic Channel, premiering tonight--a documentary on the scientific facts behind the incredible feats of martial arts. "They can crush a stack of concrete slabs with a bare fist, walk with catlike balance on a bamboo pole, and generate deadly kicks and punches at lightning-fast speeds." SWEET! More on it next column...which also catches up with the modern-day heir to the martial arts cinema crown, TONY JAA!


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