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Guess What I Did This Summer: Vayu Rekdal '15

September 18, 2012

This is the first in a short series of pieces written by current Carls about their summer career exploration experiences. Students had a wide variety of experiences in different fields and in many parts of the world, with one common theme: Carleton connections helped them secure these opportunities. Just more examples of Carls Helping Carls!

This summer, I had the fantastic opportunity to intern at the cutting-edge food and science research center Fundacion Alicia, which is located in a picturesque village outside Barcelona.

The mission of Fundacion Alicia – a foundation started in 2003 by famed chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli (If you don’t know this man, look him up) – is simple. Fundacion Alicia, according to its website, “is a research center devoted to technological innovation in cuisine, to the improvement of eating habits and to the evaluation of the food and gastronomic heritage. We are a center with a social vocation, open to everyone to promote healthy eating.” In other words, Alicia aims to improve the life of all cooks worldwide – professionals as well as amateurs.           

Every year, Alicia brings in people from across the world to train at the foundation. There is a limited amount of spots, and only around eight lucky people are accepted for each training period. Most people who come have a lot of experience working in high-end restaurants, gastronomic labs, or other similar environments. Hence, coming to Alicia seemed very distant, but I decided to give the application a shot.

After receiving a lot of help from the Carleton College career center, from fellow students and staff, I submitted what I thought was a strong application. Yet, as you might understand, finding that letter of acceptance in my Sayles mailbox a grey, winter morning was a pleasant, but equally shocking, surprise.

My trip was funded by the Carleton Creating Rewarding Educational Development Opportunities (CREDO) fellowship. I embarked on a once-in-a- lifetime adventure, an adventure that really improved my understanding of myself and the world around me. At Alicia, I was in paradise, as I immediately became immersed in the wonderful and inspiring world of science and cooking. Together with a Harvard student, I developed the labs for the science and cooking class at Harvard, conducted culinary research and revised a gastronomic lexicon on texturizers – products used to play with the dimension of texture in the modernist kitchen. My projects perfectly balanced theory with practice – every day presented a perfect harmony between thinking and doing. As a true liberal arts student, I loved the stimulating and interdisciplinary environment where people from all disciplines came together to understand, even create, the science of cooking. In short, this helped me understand not only that certain things happen, but why and how they happen – how the interaction of numerous variables creates what we know as texture and flavor.                                    

Back to Carleton I not only brought a lot of knowledge and understanding, but also a new set of prisms through which I can investigate and improve my own cooking.  Now I will share what I learn with the Carleton community and beyond. In my work as the president and founder of Firebellies, Carleton’s first and only cooking club, I will continue my work to establish a strong culinary tradition at Carleton; I will continue my work to eliminate food illiteracy on campus and beyond. Back to Northfield I will bring useful leadership skills and knowledge about food and science, which I will share in various projects in the community, as well as in my academic and extracurricular activities.

In addition, I will start a weekly cooking class called "the science of cooking," which will be inspired by an actual class taught at Harvard. Even though I will definitely not get Michelin-star chefs to come lecture every week, I know that I have something truly interesting to share with my fellow Carls.

One of the most striking parts of my internship was to everyday witness how an important a place the Alicia Foundation is. Each day, visitors from all the corners of the world come to visit Alicia to observe Alicia’s two-hectare organic farm, its facilities, and, of course, the work that is conducted within its boundaries. Simply, they come to observe a beautiful process that Ferran Adria, in the book Cooking Science: Condensed Matter, describes as, “with every day that passes, scientific and culinary knowledge are establishing closer ties in order to consolidate a stable relationship.” I am honored to have the privilege to be at the forefront of this development, and as the days go by, I am becoming more and more certain that this is where I see myself in the future. As profound as this realization might seem, I will always know that it had never been possible in the first place without the fantastic support, both academic and professional, I enjoy as a Carleton student.

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This page was last updated on 7 December 2012