The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), together with Food and Nutrition scientists at the Foods for Health Institute are working together on the Healthy Flavors Research Initiative to bridge the culinary arts and the food and sensory sciences. The partnership was developed to create a novel research program that will examine culinary strategies and flavoring techniques to make healthy, nutritious and affordable foods more flavorful and appealing to consumers. The goals of the collaboration are in response to government dietary recommendations to increase consumption of plant foods, while also creating personalized solutions to improving health through food choices.
This first CIA and UC Davis collaboration tested consumer preference for varying ratios of mushroom and meat mixtures in traditional meat-based dishes. The mushroom is a low sodium, umami-rich food that when cooked properly can take on the texture and consistency of meat. Mushrooms can add flavor to, and enhance flavors in meat-containing dishes while also reducing the need for added sodium. In the study, Culinary Institute of America chefs prepared two classic recipes – a Bolognese sauce and carne asada – to determine how much meat can be substituted with mushroom while maintaining high-likability scores from consumers in a variety of age groups.
Chef instructors from the Culinary Institute of America visited the Robert Mondavi Food Innovation Lab where they prepared mushrooms using a variety of cooking techniques, which were added to recipes developed by CIA nutrition and culinary experts. Study participants were recruited from the campus and community of Davis. Consumer tasting panels and trained sensory panels took place in the Robert Mondavi Sensory Theater, where participants tasted and rated samples of the different mushroom and meat mixtures.
The work of the Healthy Flavors Research Initiative is to discover and characterize the key sensory, culinary and consumer insights that drive up liking of - and consumer demand for - minimally processed plant-based foods and menu choices that support healthy eating patterns. By testing opportunities for partial meat substitution in dishes that are primarily meat-based, the goal of the initiative is to simultaneously reduce sodium, saturated fat and calories while maintaining or increasing consumer taste preference of these dishes.