Chef vs Science: The Ultimate Kitchen Challenge

Confirmed for BBC Four on 23 March at 9pm to 10.30pm

Wednesday 23 March



In this 1x90-minute film for BBC Four, Professor Mark Miodownik challenges Michelin-star Chef Marcus Wareing to the ultimate cookery competition.

They’ll cook up some of the nation’s best-loved dishes, from starter to dessert, in a head-to-head contest to see who can create the most flavoursome food. Creating the same dishes, but using radically different methods, the question they will attempt to answer is this: is cooking a science or an art?

Marcus Wareing is a two-Michelin-star chef at the pinnacle of his career with flair, passion and undeniable expertise in his field. His unlikely challenger comes in the form of Professor Mark Miodownik, a materials scientist from University College London. Mark is confident his understanding of cooking at the molecular level and access to state-of-the-art technology will help him prove triumphant.

For the appetizer, they will be making tomato soup. As Tomatoes are 94 per cent water, the challenge will be to extract the maximum amount of flavour from the fruit. Marcus will attempt this using his usual culinary expertise and Mark will be using a centrifuge.

For the main course, they will be cooking a medium rare steak. Difficult to perfect, the steak must have a pink interior and crispy outer shell. Marcus will rely on instinct, and years of experience and Mark will attempt to achieve this precision through a novel scientific approach involving liquid nitrogen.

The accompanying side-dish will be smooth mashed potato. Marcus will adopt his usual method of adding butter, and Mark will attempt to break his potatoes down at the atomic level by using a secret ingredient.

The final and most complex round will be the dessert – the infamous chocolate fondant. Due to the complexity of this dish, both Mark and Marcus will be using a secret weapon. Marcus will bring in specialist fondant-maker Chantelle Nicholson, and Mark will be using a microwave. Chantelle’s recipe relies heavily on precision timing but Mark is confident he will achieve a better result using a microwave and boxed cake-mix.

Throughout the film, Mark will be travelling the length and breadth of Britain to explore the secrets behind some of the most extreme and intriguing flavours that underpin our national cuisine. And – in a bid to persuade Marcus to take the science behind cooking seriously – he’ll be revealing some of the complex chemical reactions that are going on every day in kitchens across the nation.