If given the chance to ask an astronaut any question, what would it be? Students enrolled in South Campus’ College for Kids (C4K) summer program wondered what astronauts eat in space and what it tastes like. In Blast Off, a fun, energetic course focused on physics and the far reaches of space, third through eighth graders observed normal food turn into space food. Items on the menu were peach-flavored nitrogen sorbet, dragon breath popcorn, and nitro-Cheetos.
Demonstrated by guest speaker Chef Jesse Ayala, students watched as the chef prepared food using a technique known as freeze drying, a process used globally to create meals for astronauts on outer-space missions. By applying liquid nitrogen to the food, the moisture is removed so it can be packaged and stored with a shelf-life of six months. To prepare the meal in space, astronauts simply add cold or hot water. Chef Ayala used snow cone syrup, popcorn, and Cheetos to demonstrate this process before offering his creations to the class for testing.
In the three-week summer enrichment program, that’s available on all TCC campuses, C4K students experience a variety of classes focused on areas such as arts and crafts, science and technology, and health and fitness. For example, students in the Space Shuttle class recently observed a live demonstration of electric, remote-controlled airplanes. Demonstrated by Hawk Field Flyers of Texas, students learned about aerodynamics, velocity, and the body structure of a plane.
Along with tasting space food, students in Blast Off have also built water rockets, air rockets, and played air rocket baseball. Before the session ends, students will launch fuel rockets to learn about chemicals and rocket engine sizes.
As one of the few chefs in Texas inspired by the modern cookery movement known as Molecular Gastronomy, Chef Ayala has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Food Truck Race Show and the Food Network channel. He gives live demonstrations of cooking with liquid nitrogen on Fat Truck, which is his food truck where he and his team prepare and sell a wide array of unique gourmet items at various locations. Chef Ayala also caters for the Dallas Cowboys and teaches cooking classes at local homes and businesses. Chef Ayala was thrilled by the students’ reactions to his presentation. “I had lots of fun today working with the kids,” said Ayala. “They certainly got a kick out what I did.” For more information on the Fat Truck, visit www.thefattruck.com.