"Food was my playground," recalls Theo Friedman, A15, of growing up in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. Picking blueberries with his mother and mushroom hunting with his father, and family dinners where both parents cooked, were the foundation for the role food plays in his life.
"Family dinners were a given every night—no exception," says Friedman. "and it established food, cooking, eating, and the dining table as a space for relationships to grow. It brought us together."
He had his "eureka moment"—making cream puffs for his father's birthday—when he was thirteen. "The smile on my dad's face after his first bite was probably my most important cooking experience and lesson. It was a simple and pure form of communication. Those cream puffs, that piece of me, made him happy. His reaction and the connection it created have been my inspiration."
Throughout high school Friedman was passionate about art—photography in particular—and he planned to major in environmental studies at Tufts. The summer before college he worked at a restaurant, but even then, "the switch didn't turn on." During his freshman year, Friedman began watching videos demonstrating modernist cooking on YouTube. The techniques captivated him, in particular a demonstration of how agar-agar, a gel extracted from algae, can be used to make strawberry noodles.