What if you got paid to taste chocolate? Isn’t that every child’s dream? Well, it turns out the magical, imaginative Willy Wonka-like dreams are not so far-fetched after all. While you may not be able to find a chocolate class in the Cornell course catalogue, our university does have its very own Chocolate and Confections Technology Club. But this isn’t just a real-life Candyland, the club is scientific based and focuses on the processes that go into the production of our beloved sweets.
“We are interested in, not only what tastes good, but what makes things taste good,” said President Luciana Ferreira, a second year graduate student in the Department of Food Science. “We talk about the science, but we do a lot of taste testing too.” The club was founded by Ferreira and fellow Food Science graduate student, Lena Halabi, a first year.
The club began last spring but had its major kick off this fall, drawing students from all majors to their events focusing on the science and technology, of chocolate and confection production.
It is an important aspect of the club that more than just food science majors are involved. Many different types of people across campus are interested in coming to see the club’s guest speakers, researching with the group and even joining for a trip to tour a chocolate factory in Pennslyvania. Halabi said, “Everybody who likes chocolates and confections is a consumer of the products. We want to know what consumers seek when they buy chocolate or confection products. What do they like and what do they want?”
Whether you know it or not, there are many important processes involved in creating the flavors we all love– including the fermentation of the cocoa bean, the roasting of the cocoa bean and the conching of the chocolate paste. And whether you know it or not, Cornell’s Food Science program is one of the best programs in the U.S. And the chocolate industry in the U.S. is one of the best as well. So a club on campus is only natural, right?
By discussing the quality of the products and talking about how and why the value is achieved, the over fifty students in the club gain valuable knowledge into the chocolate and confection industry. In fact, Luciana and Halabi founded the club for this purpose– to give Cornellians the opportunity to learn about the field and open opportunities for networking and exploring future career goals. “We want to connect to the industry. We are not a culinary-based club, we are scientific, exploring topics such as food preservation, storage and factory aspects, besides the science of the actual chocolate,” noted Halabi.
But for the readers who made it this far, what specifically about the chocolate? “The way you can feel the substance in your mouth, lending that melt away experience, depends on the particle size of the solid,” said Ferreira. This kind of talk definitely gets my mouth watering.
But even with all their inside knowledge, Ferreira said, “We try not to distinguish right or wrong between chocolates. There are just different attributes in each product- there’s not a bad chocolate. Really, the best chocolate is the one you like.” My question is, what if you just love them all? Like Halabi admited, “Sometimes it’s hard not to get carried away with the deliciousness of it all.” Well yes, I can see why.