Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An Inspiration to Culinary Science

by blogger Kristin

One thing I did not expect from The Culinary Institute of America was all the connections it gives you as a student. I remember going through the associate program in awe as professional chefs and TV personalities alike were constantly on campus giving lectures and conducting meet and greets. While I still never take these opportunities for granted, I thought being a bachelor's student meant that I would be over my star struck excitement when meeting an industry VIP. I learned on Thursday, August 29th that I was wrong.

Though I have learned to conduct myself in a professional manner while meeting profoundly popular chefs, I had trouble hiding my excitement this past Thursday. While I have learned that you never know whom you will meet in the halls of the CIA, I never considered we might have the same connections for the Culinary Science Program. I was proved wrong when none other than Winston Shelton gave an exclusive lecture to those of us in the Culinary Science Program. For those of you who have not heard of his work, here is some background:

-          Winston Shelton is a talented engineer and inventor accredited with many influential developments both in and out of the world of food
-          He worked with GE before leaving to start his own company
-          Shelton worked closely with Colonel Sanders (yes the Colonel of KFC) to develop the Collectramatic® Fryer. This revolutionized the way convenience restaurants worked and is responsible for the KFC chicken we have come to know and love today.
-          In the 1980’s, he developed Controlled Vapor Technology (or CVap®), the ground breaking cooking technology that uses both air heat and water vapor to create the perfect conditions for cooking and holding food items.
-          Winston continues in his 90’s to invent new technologies and to be an inspiration to science minds everywhere.
-          With the introduction of the Culinary Science Program at The Culinary Institute of America, Winston Shelton graciously donated unique CVap® ovens to the newly refurbished kitchen lab.
-          Information from, Winston Industries Home Page
(photograph courtesy of )

Basically, Winston Shelton is a food intellectual whom all of us in the Culinary Science program look up to. His inventions and technology have made our degree possible and have opened up new doors and possibilities for development in the world of food science.

Now, knowing all of this information, you could imagine my excitement at the chance to speak to the genius that has inspired so much of culinary science. We sat down in the same classroom we sit in everyday but got a once in a lifetime lecture.

Winston Shelton began by giving us a short personal history. He explained his past schooling, his relationship with the colonel and how he figured out the key to successful food holding. Amazingly, Winston was able to figure out this great feat in food technology by consulting automatic dryer engineers. They understood the difference between the dry bulb and wet bulb temperature of clothes, a concept that had not yet been applied to food.

********CAUTION: SCIENCE AHEAD********
So what are dry and wet bulb temperatures anyways? During cooking, a food item is influenced by two different temperatures. The first temperature, the dry bulb, is the actual temperature of the oven. This is the temperature that is actually set when turning the dial on the oven. Though the oven is set to this temperature, the food inside it will actually never reach it. This is due to the wet bulb temperature. As food is heated, the water in the system evaporates, cooling the surface of the food and creating a temporary barrier between the food and the heat source.

The best way to portray this concept is through the example of a pool on a hot day. Imagine it is the hottest day of July and you are lounging by the pool. The heat you feel from the sunrays beating down on you represent dry heat. You then decide to take a dip in the pool to cool off with your shirt on. When you get out of the water and sit in the sun, you feel much cooler although the temperature has not changed. The t-shirt you have on is evaporating water in the sunlight, therefore cooling you down and representing the wet bulb temperature.

Once Winston realized how to manipulate these two aspects of food, the rest was history. The Collectramatic® Fryer was invented and put into KFC restaurants, Controlled Vapor Technology was discovered, and the world of food was forever changed. Because of Winston Shelton’s innovative thinking and understanding of technology, food can now be cooked by manipulating both dry and wet bulb temperatures, keeping food moist and tender. Though there is still much opportunity for research with the use of this technology on certain foods, I think it is safe to say that Winston Shelton has changed the way we will look at food forever.
header logo
(logo courtesy of )

Needless to say, it was a privilege and an honor to have this esteemed guest visit our Culinary Science program. I will never forget this experience and hope to work with brilliant minds such as Winston’s in my bright future.


  1. Have always wondered about CVAP, and how it actually works. Glad to see that there are classes about it in the program. Are creating HAACP plans for cooking techniques like CVAP, sous vide, etc. part of the classes too?

  2. Hello Peter,
    During my next semester, we will be taking a course titled "Modern and Industrial Culinary Tools and Techniques". In this course, we will be exploring modern tools and techniques that are used within the kitchen. As a part of this course we will be discussing HAACP plans for these cooking techniques. We will also be taking a Microbial Ecology course where we will talk more in depth about the microbial activity in food when it is not kept at the correct temperatures. I am looking forward to these classes and will keep you posted on how they progress in the future!