For chef Steve Poses, who has been feeding Philadelphia for over 30 years, a live cooking demonstration is no big deal. He readies the table. Mixing bowl, check. Oil and vinegar, check. Whisk, check.
The notable difference between this demo and the countless ones he has done before is that no one in this audience has celebrated a double-digit birthday yet.
They are the pint-size visitors to the Franklin Institute, grabbing a bite at Franklin Foodworks, the eatery that Poses runs in the museum.
As they munch on burgers, oranges, salads, and cupcake versions of his famous carrot cake, they can take in Kitchen Science, the new installation Poses has created in collaboration with the institute.
"Using food is a terrific doorway into science," Poses says. "It just felt like a natural fit."
The chef did his own research and worked closely with Jayatri Das, the museum's senior exhibit and program developer, to create panels that line the walls of the cheery eatery.
"The goal was to make Franklin Foodworks be a part of the experience," says Das. "Cooking is really a daily science experiment that anyone can do."
Each panel demonstrates a cooking technique, the science behind it, and the step-by-step experiment that can be done at home. Exact reproductions of the panels can be found on the museum's website (www.fi.edu/kitchen-science), in mini-booklets near the cash registers - or savvy smartphone parents can snap the QR codes to get the information on the go.
The sweet illustrations were created by Poses' friend, cartoonist Pascal Lemaître. The artist also created the drawings for the chef's latest cookbook, At Home by Steve Poses, and sketched the cartoon version of Poses that welcomes museum visitors to the cafe.
Since the permanent installation is part of the eatery, it is open to the public (without a ticket purchase) whenever the restaurant is operating. (Generally, Monday to Friday from 11 to 3 and 11 to 4 on weekends.)
On occasion - on busy museum days or for special events - the chef will be on the premises, making ice cream with liquid nitrogen, testing the boundaries of molecular gastronomy, using dough to explore gluten content, or, as he was the other day, talking emulsion.
Ean Geller Nocella, 5, was ready to start cooking as Poses explained that sometimes, oil and water do mix.
First, the chef showed the kids two clear plastic containers, one filled with oil and vinegar, the other with oil, vinegar, and mustard. He vigorously shook them both, letting the kids help, Ean bobbing his head to mimic the motion. Poses set the containers, the contents now resembling vinaigrettes, aside for the moment.
"Where does mayonnaise come from?" he asked. "The store!" the kids yelled, in unison. It was a trick question, of course; these millennium babies have no idea how easily, or even how, mayo is made.
Poses cracked two egg yolks into the metal mixing bowl as Ean and two other little scientists, Lauren and Logan Moss, held it. The chef slowly streamed in oil, whisking away, explaining that the yolk's proteins mix with the oil to create the familiar creamy white condiment.
"You are the best bowl holder I've had," Poses said to Ean. "Are you available?" Ean didn't need any time to think it over. "No, I'm not available. It's Thanksgiving."
After the mayo came to life, Poses turned his attention back to the containers. The vinaigrette that was just oil and vinegar had separated, back to its original form. But the one that also had the mustard, a common binding element, was still creamy and ready for greens.
This is just one of Kitchen Science's experiments. Other topics include taste and flavor, fermentation, and the breakdown of the chemistry behind cooking techniques like baking and frying.
While the installation is a collaboration between the museum and Poses, the money for it came through the Don Falconio Memorial Fund, a foundation Poses started to honor his longtime business partner and friend, who passed away in 2000.
Falconio, a former educator, was an integral part of Poses' three-decade-long food partnership with the Franklin Institute.
For Poses, the connection between kids, food, and science was realized when he ran an eatery at the Green Tree School, a special-needs institution, in the '80s. "The kids were so motivated around the food," he recalls. "I always felt that cooking was a wonderful vehicle not just to create something to eat, but for teaching."
It was a natural fit, and all these years later it still holds true. "I remember the first time I had to make mayonnaise when I was a grunt kitchen guy in the '80s," Poses says. "I thought it was just a miracle. Now, these kids will never look at mayonnaise the same way again."
Makes 8 servings
For the dipping sauce:
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the chicken fingers:
24 chicken tenders (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten with a dash of salt and pepper
1 1/2 quarts cornflakes, crushed
1. To make the sauce, in a medium bowl, combine chives, parsley, lemon juice, mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, salt and pepper and stir to mix evenly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Trim chicken of any tendons. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
3. Set up a breading station: In a large, resealable freezer bag, combine flour with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Put eggs in a shallow, wide dish and some of the cornflakes in another shallow, wide dish.
4. Add tenders to the bag with flour and shake to coat evenly. Remove chicken and shake off any excess flour. Dip floured chicken into egg, making sure it's completely covered. Dip into cornflakes, pressing them down to make sure chicken is coated all around. Repeat with remaining tenders, adding more cornflakes to the dish as necessary.
5. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Heat oil to 350 to 375 degrees in a deep cast-iron pot or a deep fryer. Working in batches, add chicken and fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer cooked chicken to a rimmed baking sheet. Hold in the oven until ready to serve. Serve with dipping sauce on the side.
Per serving: 564 calories, 33 grams protein, 51 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, 27 grams fat, 180 milligrams cholesterol, 657 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
5 ears corn, husked and cleaned
1 pound red bliss potatoes, quartered
1 cup chopped bacon
1 cup chopped onion
4 cups roughly chopped
kale, thick stems removed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup cooking liquid from potatoes
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add corn to pot and cook for 3 minutes. Remove and allow to cool, then scrape kernels into a bowl. Discard cobs.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, saving a little cooking liquid.
3. Heat a large saute pan over moderate heat. Add bacon to pan and cook until just cooked through. Add onions and cook until just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add corn to the pan and cook until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add kale, salt, and pepper and cook until kale wilts, 5 minutes more.
4. Add drained potatoes to saute pan. Mix well. Add cooking liquid from potatoes and use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to smash potatoes, leaving some lumps.
Per serving (based on 6): 314 calories, 17 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 15 grams fat, 36 milligrams cholesterol, 992 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.
Makes 1 loaf or 12 servings
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
2 cups cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-by-3-inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl whisk together orange zest, pumpkin, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Whisk in eggs to combine, then whisk in melted butter or oil. With a spoon, stir in cranberries, dried cranberries, and pecans. Stir in flour until combined.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until the center is firm, risen, and slightly cracked, about 60 to 75 minutes.
Per serving: 316 calories, 4 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams sugar, 15 grams fat, 51 milligrams cholesterol, 317 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.