Food scientists prepare to take Royal Highland Show by storm

Food scientists prepare to take Royal Highland Show by storm

Too many cooks may spoil the broth but when food science experts from the University of Aberdeen descend on this year’s Royal Highland Show (RHS), audiences can look forward to added entertainment, extra bite and a better understanding of their food and diet.

Scientists from the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health and the James Hutton Institute will be wowing the crowds at Ingliston as they exhibit their breadth of culinary and nutrition-related knowledge in the RHS Cookery Theatre.

The panache and flair of the chefs will be balanced by the precision and insight of the scientists, culminating in fascinating facts on nutrition as well as some great culinary advice and tastings.

These innovative events will take place in the Highland Hall at 10.30am and 1pm on the opening day of the show when scientists, Professor Harry McArdle and Dr Gordon McDougall join chef Neil Forbes of Edinburgh’s Cafe St Honoré in the Cookery Theatre. And on Saturday at 3.30pm Dr McDougall will share the stage with Dr Alexandra Johnstone and chef Wendy Barrie.

Dr Johnstone, a research fellow and nutritionist said: "Our research at the Rowett investigates how we can eat for health and longevity. Preparing and eating food should be enjoyable and at the same time can still be healthy. Part of my research involves designing accurate meals with very specific nutrient content for our volunteer studies  and I always enjoy seeing how chefs approach their work  and whether it seems to be more art than science!”

Dr McDougall, a senior research scientist at the James Hutton Institute and an enthusiastic cook in his spare time explained: “What we do in the Institute is applied food science. So with a potato salad for instance we’d be able to give insights into picking the right variety in order to get the graininess or colour a cook might be looking for. We’re also able to explain the changes which occur when food crops are stored or processed.”

Professor McArdle added: "This event shows something we have always known - that Scotland can produce food of the highest standard. We hope that events like this will open people's eyes to the possibilities of preparing healthy and delicious meals, and will contribute to an increase in the healthiness of the Scottish diet."

Chef Neil Forbes added that looking at the science behind the food we eat was becoming increasingly important. He said: “The demos at the Royal Highland Show are a valuable opportunity to translate wonderful scientific research into something that can help people make good food choices every day.”

There will be time to put questions to the scientists and chefs after each session, so come along, join in the discussion and learn some fascinating facts about your food.

A day in the life of Floss O’Phee, based at the the Dobbies’ Children’s Discovery Centre, is a series of interactive activities which will both entertain and educate the audience and is led by staff from the Rowett Institute.

Floss O’Phee, a fictional character  developed as an aid to teaching, is a young lady with a passion for nutrition and a philosophical approach to diet.

The theme for this year’s RHS is ‘A day in the life of…’ and so organisers of the event have tailored their healthy living message around this format as Floss O’Phee leads children and adults alike through the fascinating world of nutrition science.

On Thursday and Friday pupils from primary 4-7 will learn about the fascinating issue of food security - including where your food comes from, how it affects the environment and changes in food fashion through time - through a series of fun activities including an eat-well bingo and `guess what’s in the feely bag’.

The Saturday and Sunday will be open to the public and proceedings will take a more playful turn with interactive activities for all age groups. Activities will include a snacks based snakes and ladders game, smell jars and a chance to make your own nutrition based place mat.

Laura Young, Knowledge Exchange Assistant at the Rowett Institute, said “Floss O’Phee is a great role model for the children.  She encourages them to think a little more about their food including where it comes from and how to eat the right things. The day in the life event is a fantastic way to have fun and learn a bit more about what you consume day-to-day.”

Dr Sue Bird, Knowledge Exchange Manager at the University’s Rowett Institute, said: “Food is a great promoter of conversation and conviviality and this project,  is a great way to try and communicate some of the work going on across Scotland’s research base to a wide public audience. The Royal Highland Show is an important event in our extensive programme of Knowledge Exchange activities.”