José Andrés Files for Summary Judgement in Trump Countersuit

D.C.-based superchef José Andrés of ThinkFoodGroup has filed for a summary judgment in his countersuit against the Trump Organization, showing confidence his case is so straightforward it doesn’t need to go to trial.

The countersuit is an answer to Donald Trump’s suit of ThinkFoodGroup for cancelling plans to open a Spanish restaurant in the D.C. Trump Hotel, set to open in September 2016. The Trump Organization originally sought $10 million for Andres’s breach of contract. But Andrés’s company argues Trump broke their contract first, since Trump’s disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants in June 2015 made it impossible for ThinkFoodGroup to sustain their involvement with the foolhardy candidate.

The summary judgment filing cites emails which reveal frustration among Trump’s executives regarding the comments responsible for the whole legal mess. The emails, Andrés’s company argues, show that even Trump’s colleagues recognized he had severely damaged the outlook for their partnership with the Spanish chef and his 50 percent Hispanic team.

On June 25, ThinkFoodGroup emailed Ivanka Trump, Trump’s daughter and executive vice president of development and acquisitions, complaining it was “getting crushed” with backlash to Trump’s comments. A petition with over 2,700 signatures would ultimately call for Andrés to break ties with Trump. She forwarded the email to David Orowitz, senior vice president of business development.

“Ugh, this is not surprising and would expect this will not be the last that we hear of it,” Orowitz replied. “At least for formal prepared speeches, can someone vet going forward? Hopefully the Latino community does not organize against us more broadly in DC / across Trump properties.”

It’s yet unclear how successful Trump associates’ efforts have been at vetting him. But Hispanic voters are flocking to polls to vote against Trump in the primary.

Trump Organization’s general counsel Alan Garten dismissed the emails as a “red herring,” a distraction from the fact that due to an argument over the restaurant’s floor plans, Andrés and his partners had been attempting to terminate the contract weeks before Trump’s comments went viral.

While results of the summary judgment remain to be seen, the high-end chain BLT Prime is slated to fill the space originally intended for Andrés’s restaurant. Perhaps this all-American steakhouse is better suited to Trump’s taste.

The Science of Refrigeration

The refrigerator is the new hearth, an intimate and personal space where countless many find themselves in the search for comfort, enlightenment, company, peace. The center of household activity, a refrigerator can tell you a great deal about the people who use it. Its front is covered with dinky travel magnets from places like Pensacola and Niagara Falls, tiny word magnets assembled in dark snatches of verse, report cards ca. 2002, the embarrassing school portraits, pizza coupons, thank-you notes, and calendars. Happy Holidays! cards make their annual circuits on the magnetic cliff face. A quick glance at the front of any refrigerator could tell you more about its owners than the owners themselves could in thirty seconds.

Refrigeration is a concept as ancient as human consumption itself; we have long been obsessed with building and controlling a chilly micro-climate within the domestic sphere. Even before refrigeration, people recognized and understood the important relationship between temperature and food safety. It was the difference between pleasant, sleepy, post-dining haze and hours of gastrointestinal suffering. Temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit effectively immobilize most microscopic agents of chaos, violently throwing them into deep sleep, in cryo conditions. For lack of refrigeration, households depended largely upon food preservation, and their innovative fermentations are unparalleled even by today’s hip ferment-head resurgence and fixation with the microbiota.

Refrigerators create and maintain low temperatures in cycles. Each cycle consists of the vaporization (in which a liquid turns into a gas, as in the steam off a hot cup of tea) and condensation (in which a gas turns into a liquid, as in that dew on the car windshield on a rainy day) of a liquid “refrigerant.” When liquids enter their gas form, they absorb heat, and when gases turn back into their liquid form, they release it. In refrigerators, applied pressure compresses gas into its liquid phase. The goal is achieved by compartmentalization: the refrigerant removes heat from one place (the innards of the refrigerator) and deposits it somewhere else (in this case, your kitchen). This is why the side of the refrigerator is so pleasantly warm when you touch it.

At its purest form, refrigeration is the displacement of heat from one location to another. You could say the whole Northern hemisphere of this planet is refrigerated every winter when the warm air moves down south and cold air rushes in to take its place, just as well as you could say schoolchildren are refrigerated like little cuts of meat every time they walk into an air-conditioned classroom. And so we subject our food to refrigeration, because we don’t want heat. Heat is bad news for food. Outside the refrigerator, temperatures are prime for microbial banging and baby-making. These creatures don’t need much aside from some carbohydrates and water. When it’s a balmy 75 degrees out and they happen upon your loaf of sandwich bread (and they always manage to find it), the little guys go nuts. And I sympathize, really. I imagine the immense joy I myself would feel if I discovered a giant mountain of breakfast, lunch, and dinner upon which I could sit and eat and copulate all day. I would never leave.

It Takes One (Times 6 Billion): Solving the Global Energy Challenge

Daniel Nocera, Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, gave a lecture at Tulane on Sunday, Feb. 14 addressing his research on the chemistry of renewable energy and its potential to solve what he calls the global energy challenge.

The challenge for science in the 21st century, Nocera explained, is meeting energy demands as the world’s population continues to grow dramatically. Current estimates vary, but stark projections from the UN say the population could double by the year 2100. Furthermore, developing countries will  experience the most growth and thereby fresh challenges to their infrastructure.

“We’re going to have this huge energy need, and when you start looking at all the numbers, there’s only one supply that has scale, and it’s the sun,” Nocera said in an interview with MIT Technology Review.

Nocera’s vision is one of “personalized energy,” a fundamental change to the energy production system we rely upon today. Currently, a power grid manufactures huge amounts of energy which is distributed to many individuals, but Nocera believes this cannot sustain exponential population growth. His solution lies in what he calls the “artificial leaf,” the result of years of research. An unassuming device, the artificial leaf was inspired by the elegant chemical logic of photosynthesis, a process by which plants harness solar energy to fuel their cells.

Nocera’s artificial leaf is composed of a thin silicon layer coated in metal catalysts. It sits in a jar of water and as the sun strikes it, the silicon leaf catalyzes the splitting of water into its hydrogen and oxygen components. Gases bubble out from the leaf, and are ultimately harvested as a source of energy for fuel cells. The power of the artificial leaf is its ability to power fuel cells discretely. With up-scaled production, billions of artificial leaves could uproot the power grid infrastructure, allowing individuals to power their own homes efficiently and sustainably.

“You don’t build bigger and bigger artificial leaves,” Nocera said in a General Electric sponsored Focus Forward video. “I’m just going to build more and more.”

Nocera said he will travel to India next week to meet with the Prime Minister and discuss implementing his technology there, the second most populous country in the world after China.

The Tulane Department of Chemistry invited Nocera, in keeping with its annual Hans B. Jonassen lecture series honoring longtime Tulane professor Hans Jonassen and his contributions to both the Tulane community and inorganic chemistry.

Edible Foam

There is perhaps nothing quite so inconsequential to ingest as foam, and yet foam – gas trapped in a liquid matrix – inspires fiery passions. Baristas strive for the smoothest microfoam, and a creamy, long-lasting head is the stuff of brewers’ dreams. Meringues, whipped cream, and souffles are foams too; edible foam exists in numerous, disparate spaces.

And of course, it can be found in haute cuisine. The godlike Ferran Adrià, Spanish champion of three precious Michelin stars, is credited for sparking the foam revolution in the mid-1990s. His experimental style turned to foams, a refreshing way of delicately incorporating savory flavors into dishes, and he did so with a rainbow of foods – olive oil, mushrooms, cod, and beets.

Microscope image of foam.

Foam construction requires two major components: a gaseous phase, and an aqueous phase. In the case of culinary foam, using an espuma or thermo whip, the two are forcefully combined with pressurized gas (often nitrous oxide) to generate a quivering protein film surrounding evanescent gas bubbles. Hundreds of bubbles settle into a dynamic structure stabilized by surface tension and the hydrophobic effect.

A key factor in edible foam is lifespan; a poorly constructed cod foam soon reduces to a piddly mess of cod-juice. Stability of the foam dictates whether the foam stands tall or melts away, and in 1873, Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau described three universal rules for the molecular organization of foam. Should a rogue bubble fail to adopt these rules, it pops.

The first rule is that when bubbles meet at an edge, it will be at the intersection of three surfaces. Second, each pair of surfaces meets at an angle of 120 degrees. Three surfaces therefore meet at a sum of 360 degrees, forming a full circle. Finally, the last rule is that when bubbles meet at a point, it will be at the intersection of four bubbles, at an angle of 109.5 degrees.

These rules reflect the adoption of the most stable conformation. The most stable bubbles will be polyhedral in nature, a three-dimensional space with straight edges. Liquids destabilize the structure, causing bubbles to round out and flow freely. In the image of foam structure above, water destabilizes the bottom of the foam, and the bubbles are rounded. The top half is dry, and the bubbles are clearly polyhedral as a result of their increased stability.

Foams are unique culinary phenomena, ethereal and fleeting structures capable of delivering heady flavors in light and unexpected ways. I read about foams and saw a photo of a thermo whip, imediately recognizing it as a gadget I saw a woman buy at a thrift store earlier this week. I hadn’t recognized it at the time, but she bought the strange two-necked bottle for just 50 cents, and the cashier told her it was a steal.

“Yeah,” the woman agreed. “You know what it is, right?” I didn’t.

“Oh yes! Go forth and culinate!”