Professor Charles Spence has been awarded the Prix de la Littérature Gastronomique for his book Gastrophysics.

The accolade, which is granted by the European Academy of Gastronomy and the Board of the Académie Internationale de la Gastronomie (AIG) based in Paris, France, recognises individuals or institutions who distinguish themselves at a national level in gastronomy.

The book details Prof Spence’s work pairing gastronomy with experimental psychology. Taking into account every sensory aspect of the eating experience, from the weight of the cutlery to the sound in the room and more, he shows how taste is as much in the mind as on the tongue.

The research participants behind the book included Somerville undergraduate students and their parents, when Prof Spence put his own research on the menu at the 2014 Parents’ Lunch.

The families were divided into two groups. While one half of the room was served the food as normal, the other received an experimental plating such as a ‘Kandinsky’ style artistically arranged salad or a main course arranged off-centre on the plate. Both groups were then asked how much they would have paid for the dishes. Prof Spence discovered that artistically displayed food or food placed in the centre of the serving plate was thought to be worth more money than a standard plating or off-centre food.

One half of the room received a ‘Kandinsky’ style salad (left), which they estimated as worth more money than the normal presentation (right)

Prof Spence collaborated with some of the world’s top chefs for the book, including Heston Blumenthal, the triple Michelin starred proprietor of the Fat Duck Restaurant. The college’s head chef Paul Fraemohs is also acknowledged by Spence.

The award was made by two international gastronomy bodies, the AIG and the European Academy of Gastronomy. The AIG is an institution which aims to nurture and promote national and regional cooking cultures and culinary heritages around the world, while encouraging creativity in contemporary cuisine. The European Academy of Gastronomy (AEG) is a non-profit Association founded in Paris by national Academies of Gastronomy of EU member countries to safeguard and promote European food culture and innovation.

Professor Charles Spence’s prize winning Gastrophysics is published by Penguin.

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