The Science of Food Pairing

BRUGES, Belgium —

While he lives in a small city in West Flanders in the far northwest of Belgium, Bernard Lahousse commands the attention of a million chefs, bartenders and food professionals with the click of a mouse.

Lahousse is the founder of FoodPairing, a Belgium-based website that uses science-based insights to help you identify which foods and drinks make the best pairings. Lahousse has perfected an elegant and intuitive interface that enhances creativity by hiding the complexity with beautiful visuals.

Photos are eye-candy for gourmets with ingredients displayed alongside recipes that blend wonderfully and inspire. The website launched in 2009. Its popularity has soared in the past two years to the point where a million foodies have registered. Beginners sign up for free but are limited to 100 pairings (50 foods and 50 beverages). Subscribers pay €9.50 per month or €90 annually (about $10 monthly for pro access or $50 per month for experts who can access the complete database of 1,500+ ingredients, many of which are sponsored by major brands.

A “lite” version is available for $1.99 per month with access to 250 foods and 100 beverages.

Click this link for a demo.

WTN150427_JulesDestrooper_DiagramLahousse is managing director of Food for Design, a consultancy to executive chefs worldwide and is a director at CREAX food.

“Our team of food scientists, computational mathematicians and chefs work closely together with some of the best chefs, food companies and universities all over the world to create cutting edge algorithms. Our software tools, in combination with the culinary team, digital advertising experts and business developers bring unique solutions for our clients,” said Lahousse.

The science behind the site is fascinating.  A primer describes the importance of aroma to a successful pairing. “When different foods share certain key aromas they are more likely to pair well in a recipe,” according to FoodPairing.  The flavor of strawberry is used to demonstrate how subtle “cheesy” and “citrus” and “roasted” aromas make the match.


“We all know the classic combination of strawberry and chocolate. It’s mainly the shared roasted aromas connecting these ingredients. Strawberry also matches to parmesan through cheesy aromas or to basil via citrus aromas.

“That’s how Foodpairing® confirms the traditional pairings we know, while also revealing non-traditional and surprising combinations,” according to the site.

The site takes into consideration dietary limitations such as vegetarian and lists nine cuisines from American, French, African and Chinese to Italian, Thai and, of course, Belgian.

You next choose a course: appetizer, beer pairing, main course or dessert.

Creators then select one of six themes: fun vegetables, beer & cheese, desserts with a twist, original cocktails, North Sea recipes and BBQ.

WTN150427_JulesDestrooper_recipeI selected a Darjeeling base tea and quickly discovered a dessert recipe created by a century old Belgian bakery (Jules Destrooper) based in Lo. One of their offerings is a flat elongated vanilla wafer known as Gabriella. Starting with the Gabriella as a base the company chefs added plum on chocolate mousse and topped it with this recipe for Darjeeling jelly:

Tea Gelly by Jules DestrooperWTN150427_JulesDestrooper

  • 250g Water
  • 4,5g Darjeeling tea
  • 15g White sugar
  • 2g Lemon juice
  • 2g Agar

Bring the water to a boil. Add the tea and allow to infuse 5 minutes. Sieve.
Add the sugar, lemon juice and agar. Bring to a boil. Allow to gel.
Cut into the desired shape. Click here to view the complete recipe.

Conveniently share your own creations on Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.

Learn more: on Pinterest at on Facebook at or follow Bernard Lahousse on Twitter @foodpairing

And don’t forget to attend these expo sessions that focus on tea pairing:

The Art of Food and Beverage Pairing (Wednesday May 6, 2015)
8:00am – 9:30am – World Tea Expo

Speaker: Cynthia Gold, Tea Sommelier, L’Espalier
There is no food that can not be enhanced with the ideal beverage pairing. This is in fact the heart of the culinary experience.  Finding effective pairings is fun, challenging and delicious.  While focusing on pairing with tea, we will look at the basic concepts behind pairing food and beverage, and how to use them to guide your choices.

Marriages Made in Tea and Dessert Heaven (Friday May 8, 2015)
8:00am – 9:30am – World Tea Expo

Speaker: Robert Wemischner, Food Writer & Chef, The Dessert Architect
What’s better than a properly brewed cup of tea? Give up? A properly brewed cup of tea paired with a dessert tailor-made to bring out the best in the tea and create a satisfying dialogue between bites of the desserts and sips of the cuppa. Most Darjeelings favor a fruity dessert, berries, citrus and stone fruit all marry well with these champagnes of the tea world. Neighbors to Darjeelings, Assams grown in the adjacent Indian northeast take to milk and other dairy beautifully; hence a felicitous pairing with a caramel flavored dessert where dairy and sweetness are wrapped up in a delicious package. With their sometimes smoky notes, Chinese black teas are perfect partners to chocolate based desserts. In this class, we will explore those felicitous pairings and more, with tastes aplenty to bring the point home deliciously. Recipes and tips will be included with suggestions for specific pairings. Get ready to get those taste buds soaring!

Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.