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### Chefs and Algebra

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Date: 02/05/2002 at 10:56:57
From: Kay
Subject: Chefs and Algebra

Hi. I'm an eighth-grade algebra student and I would like to know how
algebra (specifically polynomials, the quadratic formula, factoring,
etc.) could possibly relate to my future career and my life beyond
high school. I hope to become a chef someday, and I have a hard time
liking math and wanting to do the homework because I just don't see
how what we are learning in algebra is going to help me in real life.
I know that mathematical knowledge is needed for measurement and
recipe conversions (I've already found lots of resources that show
this kind of relationship between math and cooking.), but is higher
math ever used in cooking/food industries?
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Date: 02/05/2002 at 12:12:00
From: Doctor Sarah
Subject: Re: Chefs and Algebra

Hi Kay - thanks for writing to Dr. Math.

There's a nice description of what a modern master chef needs to know
and how math is involved at:

Chefs' Corner - Chef Bullard
http://www.newsherald.com/archive/food/ch031898.htm

Here's an excerpt:

Today's professional chef is much more than a great cook
with an artistic manner in plating food. The new professional
chef must be an accountant, a business manager, an events
planner who can extend recipes to have enough food to satisfy
the expected number of guests and have no food dollars wasted,
a menu planner who can forecast increases or decreases in raw
food costs as the cost is affected by the seasonality of some
food products, and use to his or her advantage unpredictable
shortages, which increase costs, or surplus, which usually
decreases food costs.

Costs are also anticipated by effects of altering events such
as El Nino. California, for instance, which grows 70 percent of
this nation's produce has been devastated by El Nino-provoked
rain storms, which means that the produce growing region will
shift eastward to Arizona and the central states, which are not
in great shape either. Florida, ranking as a top produce grower,
has also been hit hard by the flooding waters that have halted
much raw food production, and has seen a devastating birthing
season for the cattle industry. Alabama and parts of Georgia are,
at this moment, under water and probably will not be able to
produce peanuts and soy for cooking oil, alfalfa and hay for
cattle feed, nor corn or melons, berries, or pit-fruits for the
market. The food production situation is not extremely positive
at this time, but certainly not to the point of despair. We can
adjust and repair what has been "broken."

I realize you asked for a dozen doughnuts and just got the bakery,
but I feel that you may find more calculus facts from that
illustration than can be taught on the job.

...to complete the requirement ...for the A.S. degree in Culinary
Management, the student must pass College Business Math. Passing
Business Math is not the major problem; qualifying for the class
is the problem. Planning ahead in high school is the solution.
Business Math teaches: how to look for discounts from purveyors
if a bill is paid within a specified period of time - for instance
a 2 percent discount may be offered on a bill if the bill is paid
within 10 days, rather than the usual 30 days expected payment
period (people like to get their money as quickly as possible so
they can have more operating/spending power).

How to depreciate, or take a tax break, on capital equipment
(those pieces of equipment which have a useful life expectancy of
more than a year - something like an oven) and when the owner must
consider that same piece of equipment as an asset and start paying
taxes on it when it proves to be of exceptional quality and just
will not die. Business Math is supported by another class,
Purchasing for Hospitality Operations, which reinforces discount
policies, shipping and receiving fees and forecasting for futures
markets. It also teaches how to cut costs through deliberate
spending and by establishing purchasing parameters.

... how would you convert a recipe that was written for a
particular type of bread that calls for one and one-eighth
tablespoon of salt for the full recipe for 200 rolls, as an
example, and convert that recipe to make 100 rolls? Baking is an
exact science where the success of the baked good may depend on
the precise amount of sugar, salt and yeast. Too much salt will
kill the yeast and the bread will not rise; too little salt will
not strengthen the dough, allowing the yeast to overdevelop and
the bread would possibly rise too high and be too soft to enjoy.
This is a simple algebra problem ... what is one and one eighth
multiplied by one half? The answer could be your house payment ...
extended over a period of (successful) years in the business,
of course.

- Doctor Sarah, The Math Forum
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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