Combining food and science adds up to a winning formula for the mind and senses, as we saw at the World Science Festival Gala on Monday, where some of the brightest minds in science, theater and culinary arts gathered to pay tribute to James D. Watson. The gala, which was held inside the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, marked the 60th anniversary of his Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the DNA structure known as the Double Helix. Broadway performers Ann Harada (Avenue Q), Greg Hildreth (Cinderella), Alex Gemignani (Sweeney Todd) and Peter Benson (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) serenaded the Nobel Laureate with pop songs, which were cleverly re-written to include scientific phrases. Since the gala was also just days apart from his 85th birthday (on April 6th), host Alan Alda surprised Watson with a multi-tiered birthday cake created by TLC Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, with David Chase and World Science Festival board members Tracy Day, Brian Green, and Marilyn and Jim Simons joined in on singing “Happy Birthday.”
But food experimentation reigned supreme for the rest of the evening, as each table functioned like a science lab. Potato soup was sipped from test tubes, crab salad was plated atop petri dishes, cocktails poured from flasks, and popcorn ice cream prepared with liquid nitrogen. Perhaps the most intriguing taste test of the night was when Chicago Chef Homaro Cantu of iNG and Moto challenged testers to combine his miracle berry powder with lemon. Once sampled, the organic plant tricked the mind and taste buds to make lemons seem sweet. Cantu believes the miracle berry will change the way people perceive food and can even help “eliminate sugar from the human diet.”
The gala (take a look in the DuJour gallery to see more) marked the official countdown and preview of what to expect at the sixth annual World Science Festival, beginning May 29. Tickets for the five-day event will go on sale April 25. To purchase advanced tickets, sign up for the newsletter.