By Elspeth Houlding,  PR Officer at the British Science Association



With the Great British Bake Off back on TV, millions of people are dusting off their baking trays, and polishing their pastry rollers in preparation for another summer of baking.

We will scrutinise our scones and inspect our icing, but what’s actually affecting our perceptions of food? Is it the chemistry of the dish or the art of the plate?

When we taste food, we may think that we’re getting all the information about the dish’s flavour from our tongues, but this isn't the case. Tasting actually involves touch, taste and smell, Barry Smith founder of the Centre for the Study of the Senses, explained that “even before you engage touch, taste and smell, you will often select what you want to eat with your eyes, assessing it by how it looks. At the same time, there may be sounds of a wine being poured and as you eat you will hear the crunch of raw vegetables or salad leaves.”

In order to taste, your brain gathers information from all of these different sensory inputs, so taste really isn’t that straight forward.

In 'A question of taste?'  at the British Science Festival, join philosopher Barry Smith, chef Jockie Petrie and sensory experts Ophelia Deroy and Charles Spence to explore the factors that affect our dining experiences – with some intriguing demonstrations!


Meet the panel

Jockie Petrie
is one of the UK’s most innovative, imaginative and creative pastry chefs. Petrie worked his way up from pot washer to Head Pastry Chef and Head of Development of the Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, working alongside Heston Blumenthal.

Dr Ophelia Deroy
’s work focuses on the varieties of ways in which our senses interact and shape our conscious experience. Ophelia is a Senior Researcher for the Centre of the Study of the Senses, which brings together philosophers of mind and perception, experimental psychologists and neuroscientists.

Professor Barry Smith
is a professor of philosophy and director of the Institute of Philosophy as well as the founder of the Centre for the Study of the Senses. His work focuses on the multisensory perception of flavour. In 2010, he was the writer and presenter of ‘The Mysteries of the Brain’ on BBC World Service, and is a wine columnist for Prospect Magazine.

Professor Charles Spence is the Head of the Crossmodal Research laboratory, his research investigates how better understanding of the human mind can lead to better design of multisensory foods, products, interfaces and environments.
Hear how Prof Spence’s research calls for a radical new way of examining and understanding the senses that has major implications for the way in which we design everything from household products to mobile phones, and from the food we eat to the places in which we work and live.

'A question of taste?' takes place on Wednesday 9 September, from 12.45-14.00. Book your FREE ticket!

Rummage through our programme, bursting with events from all over the science spectrum!

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