Ingredient – Ali Bouzari

In Ali Bouzari’s debut book, Ingredient: Unveiling the Essential Elements of Food, each of the fundamental building blocks of food are fully explored to allow cooks a way to visualize and respond to what’s really happening in the pan. An ingredient is a tomato, a tortilla, or some tarragon. An Ingredient (with a capital “I”) is a recurring theme (or fundamental building block) that works behind the scenes in everything we cook. 

Ali Bouzari is a culinary scientist, educator, and co-founder of Pilot R+D, a culinary research and development company based in Northern California. After a stint working in restaurant kitchens while still studying biochemistry as an undergraduate, he started teaching at the Culinary Institute of America while obtaining his Ph.D. in Food Biochemistry from the University of California, Davis. 

While at the CIA, he helped develop the eleven-course curriculum for their Culinary Science bachelor’s program, the first of its kind in the U.S. For his dissertation, Ali stayed true to his roots as a cook and collaborated with the French Laundry to focus his research on everyday cooking challenges. This interaction jumpstarted his career as a consultant to the culinary industry, allowing him to work closely with some of the most innovative restaurants in the U.S. Before reading his bio, I was totally impressed with myself for checking five things off my to-do list.

Bouzari’s book Ingredient, is not a cookbook – there are no recipes – it can be defined as a manual on how food works. Chapters are organized as follows: Water, Sugars, Carbohydrates, Lipids, Proteins, Minerals, Gases and Heat. Each chapter is then broken down further. For example: Water is subdivided into 1) Solid, Liquid or Gas; 2) Dissolving; 3) Flow; 4) Acids + Bases; and 5) Growth.  Every aspect of each component is studied and explained. It truly is a valuable tool in any cook’s arsenal – just as learning everything we can about spices and herbs and their uses, understanding how each building block brings a meal together is essential to furthering our culinary education. 

The book contains many illustrations and flow charts that make learning the science behind food playful and fun. I think of Ali as the new Alton Brown – the food world can definitely use another culinary genius with the initials AB. 

Ali states, “Ingredient works well as a reference book, but it’s meant to be treated like a mini curriculum, a crash course in how food works. Read it beginning to end and you will gain a Sherlock Holmes-like superpower to help you visualize the patterns, connections, and solutions to questions you come across in the kitchen for the rest of your life.”

We are thrilled that Ali’s pubisher, Ecco, is offering a giveaway to our members in the U.S., Canada and U.K. Head to our contest page to enter. Ecco provided the photographs and excerpt illustrations from Ingredient for our use.

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  • Kristjudy  on  December 1, 2016

    A great review! An interesting book to add to our shelves.

  • timtom  on  January 24, 2017

    This is truly a book like no other. I picked it up from the library after it featured on Wired and I'm now contemplating adding it to my collection as a reference. It's not as detailed as other food science books (think The Food Lab) and there are no recipes, instead it's intended as a practical guide for recipe development. For example: I want to thicken this sauce without compromising on flavour, what are my options?

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