Chefs and Algebra
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?
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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