World Authority Speaks about The Learning of Human Flavour Preference The Department of Chemistry of the University of Malta and the Chamber of Scientists are organising a fascinating seminar dealing with the learning of human flavour preference, to be led by Professor Anthony Blake from the University of Nottingham, on Wednesday, 21 st March 2007 at 12:00 noon, at Erin Serracino Inglott Hall on campus (Lecture Theatre1).

Developments in several very diverse fields, within the last ten years, have led to a new understanding of what flavour is, how we become conscious of it and how we develop the flavour preferences we have. This paper will introduce, in lay terms, how the sensory qualities of food which are received by our brain create the conscious perception we have of the food in our mouth. Flavour is, in fact, a construct of the brain, determined not only by the image, taste, odour and texture of the food, but also by our previous eating experiences of that food and the emotional and situational aspects of them. As babies we indirectly start to experience the flavours of the food eaten by our mothers, long before we are born and this has a strong influence on the food preferences we will have after birth. The decision whether we are fed at the breast or via the bottle will also be shown to influence food preferences in some surprising ways. Early eating experiences lead to deeply held notions of whether foods are delicious or disgusting. Many animals show neophobia, an unwillingness to eat new foods, and human beings also show aspects of this, but more difficult to understand is the fact that they seek to modify their diets at both a personal and collective level. The craving for new foods may well be a uniquely human characteristic.

Professor Tony Blake, who was born in Wales and has degrees in chemistry and biochemistry from The University of Oxford, is a world authority on flavour and taste. His career has spanned four decades, during which he has worked in research, development and marketing for major food companies, as well as lecturing widely on the physiology of taste and related subjects.

He is specifically concerned with studying the interactions between flavour molecules and food matrices and how these relate to flavour encapsulation and release.

In recent years his attention has also focused on the psychology of flavour perception and the learning of flavour and food preferences. In 2001 he was appointed a special professor at the University of Nottingham in its School of Biosciences.

Prof Blake is a fellow of the British Society of Flavourists and in 2003 was presented with the Bill Littlejohn Medal for his contribution to the flavour industry. He is an enthusiastic and self-taught chef, as is his colleague (British top chef) Heston Blumenthal, whom he first met at a conference on molecular and physical gastronomy in Erice, Sicily. Blake and Heston have been working together on strange and wonderful food projects since 2001.

Dishes such as green tea and lime mousse (which is frozen in liquid nitrogen) and foie gras with a jasmine-flavoured sauce are the result of their collaboration.

Professor Anthony Blake is in Malta presenting a Kitchen Chemistry Training Workshop for Starwood Malta employees. This event has been organized by Ben Sington Managing Director of Le Meridien Phoenicia and Andy Gaskin Executive Chef at Le Meridien St Julians, with the cooperation and participation of The University of Malta Chemistry Department.

Starwood Malta comprises Le Meridien Phoenicia, Le Meridien St Julians and Westin Dragonara Resort.