Q&A Demongeot Food science

May 21, 2024 •

8 min reading

Dive into food science and nutrition with EHL's Dr. Demongeot

Written by

Welcome to the regular Q&A feature where we shine the spotlight on our EHL research faculty and their current work. With a view to going behind the scenes to better understand the fascinating, impactful world of research, the EHL Institutional Visibility team will be regularly catching up with an EHL researcher whose work is making a difference in both the classroom and industry.

This month’s spotlight is dedicated to food scientist and associate researcher, Dr Adrien Demongeot, an integral part of the EHL Institute of Nutrition R&D team. The institute was launched in 2021 by co-directors, Inès Blal and Patrick Ogheard, and manager, Cyril Lecossois with a view to promoting innovative approaches to contemporary nutrition challenges in collaboration with food industry partners. At the end of last year, the institute partnered with Yumame Foods to drive the development and market entry of new, healthy and sustainable food offers. We spent time with Adrien to find out more about this exciting collaboration and the importance of merging food science with gastronomy expertise for the development of good food in the future.


How did you come to the world of food science?

I’m originally from Dijon and have an Engineering degree from the ESPCI school of Physics and Chemistry in Paris, followed by a PhD in Material Sciences from Sorbonne University specializing in soft matter (rheology, texture and transformation). In 2021, after four years of post-doc at EPFL, I came to EHL as a research associate for the newly founded Institute of Nutrition R&D.

Interestingly, I’ve always loved cooking - as a kid wanted to be a cook and then become a food engineer, rather like Hervé This, a French food scientist known for his work in developing gastronomic science and molecular cuisine. I have always seen this as an exciting, niche science and am particularly interested in how gastronomy is tied to principles from chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering.


What is the EHL Institute of Nutrition R&D all about?

The institute was born from the desire to explore nutrition and food from both a gastronomic and scientific perspective. Our aim is to develop tasty, nutritious, sustainable food and to combine gastronomy expertise with scientific research to tackle modern nutritional challenges. We work in collaboration with industry-leading companies, chefs, food scientists and partners from diverse disciplines to identify priority topics for new food and beverage concepts. Together, we look at ways to revolutionize cooking, food processing and preservation methods.

With Nestlé Research, our initial working partner, we collaborated on translating scientific discoveries into prototypes and new recipes for Nestlé's research. We have also partnered with Bruno Goussault, a pioneer in precise temperature and sous-vide cooking - a collaboration which has helped position the institute as a reference in these cooking methods.

For us, it’s important to integrate scientific research with gastronomic expertise. In the past, food science has rarely taken the chef’s expertise into account – hence why previous ‘new food’ attempts have not been exceptionally tasty, (if tasty, they are usually very high end!). We are helping to create new, alternative food options that can be more widely available and are especially built upon chefs’ expertise.


Describe your role at EHL as a food scientist and Research Associate at the Institute of Nutrition R&D?

My role within the institute ranges from writing funding proposals to developing the scientific part, specifically the experiment planning. I also act as the link between our partner scientists and the EHL chefs. I have a key bridging role since I am able to understand what both sides need. Sometimes scientists can be too focused on their specific projects, vocabulary and mindset, and not surprisingly, chefs can be exactly the same! They are unknowingly scientists themselves. They certainly have that focused mindset and their own particular vocabulary. My job is to bring the two worlds of science and cooking closer together and show that the future of food is dependent on both aspects.

For the event planning, I work closely with Antonin Soussan (the institute’s project manager). Each year we organize a big conference to help chefs develop and present important food-related themes. Last year the conference was all about cooking at the precise temperature, this year it will be about gastronomy and health. We’ll be looking at what chefs need to understand in terms of nutrition, how we can develop healthier food, how to improve food in hospitals, how gastronomy can contribute to health issues and vice versa. The conference takes place on 22nd April at EHL campus Lausanne, with guest speakers from Lausanne's Chuv hospital and Clinic La Source.

EHL Research  Collaborate with our Researchers  Opportunities for collaborative research range from dedicated applied research  projects by selected faculty members to sponsorship of a long-term research  institute at EHL.  Contact us

How did the current collaboration with Yumame Foods come about and what are its aims?

Yumame Foods approached us two years ago with their idea to develop food products for the centre of the plate based on mushrooms and fermentation that are tasty, nutritious and highly sustainable. At that time, the company had already proven its innovative technology scientifically and had the vision to integrate culinary science in the earliest steps of product development. This is why they approached our institute and asked us to use our gastronomy and scientific competences to develop culinary product prototypes based on their methods and principles.

The fact that we share the same basic working principles (tasty, healthy and sustainable food for the future) meant that they were a perfect industry partner for the institute, and we were the perfect innovation partner for Yumame Foods. They believe in locally produced, minimally processed, delicious food that adheres to a sustainable and circular approach.

The project’s objectives are to create a portfolio of Yumame product recipes and culinary applications with further enhanced taste options and specific nutritional performance. Our experts also work on further optimizing the production processes in order to reduce energy consumption and yield.

The newly developed products need to be industrially scalable and guarantee high sensory and nutritional properties, long shelf life and market-viable costs. These requirements are stringent but they are the prerequisite for an innovative product to become broadly adopted in the market and therefore make a relevant impact to improve the current food systems.

In cooperation with scientists and culinary chefs we are developing wholesome goodness - deliciously tasty food that respects nature.

How does this collaboration leverage expertise from the Institute of Nutrition?

Optimizing and extending the product recipe portfolio through minimal-processing is top of the agenda – this where the EHL gastronomy expertise comes in. By using locally sources ingredients, gentle production methods and Yumame’s own fermentation approach, EHL's culinary experts help develop new product formulations that extend and improve the already existing offerings.

We also focus on optimizing Yumame’s fermentation approach by looking into the effects of temperature, humidity and ingredients on taste, texture and nutrition. We use minimal processing techniques and animal-free, local, wholesome ingredients like legumes, grains and fungi.

This is quite different to how ‘alternative meat’ is made - usually dependent on high temperatures, complex processing and long international supply chains, (no wonder it often tastes so bland!) Our approach involves simple processing alongside natural fermentation used in an innovative way. We don’t separate macro nutrients, there’s no protein extraction and no high mixing of ingredients at high temperatures, which deeply change the natural form of the ingredients.

Our role is to leverage the right expertise at the right moment. To be coherent with the timeline, adapting the taste should come early in the prototype phase rather than later. This is done with the help of a multidisciplinary scientific taskforce involving the chefs, scientists and researchers to help establish first the taste and then optimize the production processes.

Our expertise is especially useful at the beginning of the product development phase, as our collaboration with Yumame Foods shows. My advice to any company that desires to work with us: Do not come to us with a mature prototype asking for flavor and culinary developments, this is too late!

Lastly, we lend support in the consumer validation phase. Since it’s crucial for any product to be popular, testing is an important step in the development process. With Yumame, we will soon start the tasting phase here on EHL campus Lausanne in one of our many restaurants outlets, and in collaboration with external partners. 

EHL Kitchen - Adrien Demongeot
EHL Kitchen - Adrien Demongeot 1

Any specific challenges that have cropped up along the way?

Yes, there has been one main challenge: scaling up from small quantities to literally tons. In the case of Yumame, whose vision is to offer their products to consumers nationwide and expand internationally, we cannot use ingredients in the relatively small amounts and complex manual transformations that chefs are used to. Here, our chefs are faced with having to develop a “big quantity” mindset which is new for them, while still maintaining their “excellent taste, excellent quality” mindset. So it becomes a two-way exchange. While the chefs are providing the culinary ideas for taste improvement, Yumame are helping them understand how to think in terms of bigger production.

Yumame have already set up a pilot scale production. Improving large scale production even further is now the next step. At present, the food products have been used as “centre of the plate” for vegan and vegetarian menues in several university canteens, restaurants and at events in Switzerland, and are receiving excellent feedback. This is a promising start but we need to look at developing products for a much larger market.


The health aspect is a key focus for Yumame and for the institute, how is this being developed?

Because of the fermentation process which extends the food’s lifespan, Yumame products achieve long stability without using any preservatives. Their products have already proven to remain stable at least for three months in supermarket fridges. This is quite a long shelf life, particularly when compared to that of the currently available plant-based meat products, where one third is thrown away.

The additional advantage of Yumame products is their higher levels of nutrition. Fermentation is well known for making nutrients more available and promoting gut health. There is a pre-digestion effect where rich nutrients are released once eaten, this means that no extra vitamins need to be added to the ingredients (unlike many meat alternatives which add vitamins but then lose most of them due to the high cooking temperatures).


Do you feel your childhood dream has been fulfilled?

In many ways yes! I am working with science and cooking, and am constantly surrounded by knowledgeable chefs, their techniques and their skills. They come to me to help understand certain processes and see how I can help them develop new food ideas. This is enormously rewarding – to have an impact on better food solutions for the future.

EHL Institute of Nutrition R&D  Ready to explore the future of nutrition and culinary innovation?  Discover the kitchen of the future and embark on a journey to revolutionize  the way we approach nutrition  Learn more

Written by

EHL Insights content editor