When not analyzing brain scans, one San Diego neuropsychology researcher makes fancy pies
by Diane Bell
So, what is a neuroscientist in training who authored a paper on “Cerebral Gyrification and Cortical Architecture in Autism Spectrum Disorders” doing in London making pistachio chocolate lemon meringue eclairs on a baking show?
Jiwandeep Kohli specializes in brain neuroimaging to unlock secrets of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Outside the lab, however, the doctoral student is often in the kitchen, where he loves to bake pies, creating artistic designs with the dough. (Photo courtesy of “The Great American Baking Show”)
Neuropsychology researcher Jiwandeep Kohli, who is pursuing a joint San Diego State-UC San Diego clinical psychology doctoral degree, believes hobbies should be pursued with the same passion as one’s career.
When he started helping his mom make richly flavored Indian-Punjabi food, he was so young he had to stand on a kitchen stool to reach the countertop. In college, though, Kohli turned to baking, launching his pastry adventures with a fruit tart.
The Mission Valley resident was first contacted about entering a televised baking competition last March. Three years earlier, “The Great British Bake Off” had branched out to produce a U.S. version, “The Great American Baking Show,” which targets baking hobbyists, not professional cooks.
“A casting agent for the show stumbled across my Instagram photos and got in touch with me,” Kohli explained. He was hesitant. He had never imagined baking in front of a national TV audience. In the end, he says, “My friends and family convinced me to do it.”
Of the 10 contestants on the Dec. 6 premiere, after a judges’ blind tasting, he won the technical challenge of making flourless chocolate cake with meringue topping from an incomplete recipe. On Thursday, episodes 3 and 4 start at 9 p.m. on ABC TV. The final two segments air on Dec. 20.
Kohli can’t discuss the results, but says, “It pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was out of the realm of anything I had ever imagined doing, and it was very different from baking in my kitchen at home. If nothing else, I have a new fun fact to share with people.”
Kohli doesn’t find pastry making out of character. “It involves experimentation and a high level of precision” and a smaller margin for error. If you don’t get ratios just right, the product suffers. Another contestant on the show is a surgeon.
Outside the kitchen, Kohli’s neuroimaging analyzes the anatomy of the brain, its shape, microstructure and folding patterns. His goal is to aid in earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and identify subgroups to enable targeted intervention. He is now turning his research attention to adults with ASD, a group that has been largely neglected.
Kohli, who wears outfit-coordinated turbans rather than a chef’s toque, gravitated toward cooking because “a love of food and sharing food is one of easiest and strongest ways to connect with other people.” Since it’s his hobby, the only way others can sample Kohli’s culinary creations is to become a friend, he laughs.
Singer Jewel (Kilcher), center, with her brothers, Shane, left, and Lee, posing in front of the log cabin in which their father, Atz Kilcher, grew up. She just has been selected for membership in the Horatio Alger Association for people who succeed against great odds. (Courtesy of Jewel)
Jewel’s Horatio Alger story: What does singer Jewel have in common with Jenny Craig, Ernest Rady, Alex Spanos, T. Denny Sanford, Art Linkletter, Charles “Red” Scott and Helen Copley?
Like them, she has a strong tie to San Diego, having been “discovered” playing acoustic guitar and singing in coffee shops, such as the Inner Change Coffeehouse in Pacific Beachand Java Joe’s. Word has it, she was so ill-suited to being a barista, “Java” Joe Flammini told her to forget taking orders and just sing for customers.
She now has something else in common. In early April, Jewel, along with 12 others, will be inducted into the Horatio Alger Association for Distinguished Americans in Washington, D.C.
The Horatio Alger Award recognizes people who pull themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps through hard work and determination, beating poverty, abuse and other hardships to become leaders and role models with strong values.
Jewel was living in this van when she was working and performing in San Diego before she was “discovered.” This photo is believed to be from 1994, the year before her debut album, “Pieces of You,” was released and went on to become a 12-time platinum best seller (Courtesy of Jewel)
Jewel, whose rags-to-riches rise is more poignant than any fairy tale, is a compelling example of the stories of determined kids who triumph over adversity brought to life by 19th-century author Horatio Alger.
The association explained that Jewel Kilcher was raised in a tiny Alaska town by her mother and volatile father, a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD. She began singing in hotels and bars with her parents when she was just 5 years old. When she reached 15, she moved out of the unstable, abusive environment and took a part-time job to support herself, hitchhiking or riding her horse to town. She earned a partial scholarship to a fine arts high school in Michigan and townspeople helped her raise $11,000 to cover tuition.
Jewel performing at the Inner Change Coffeehouse in Pacific Beach, which since has closed. It was one of the places around San Diego in which she performed to make a living in the mid-’90s. (Courtesy of Jewel)
After graduating, she got a job in San Diego and lived in her car — until it was stolen, leaving her homeless. Nevertheless, Jewel persevered, writing songs and performing in Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and other San Diego venues until a talent scout discovered her, catapulting her career from the Pacific to Atlantic Records. Her 1995 first album, “Pieces of You,” is one of the best-selling debut albums of all time, and Jewel won an American Music Award for Favorite New Artist.
She also sang at Super Bowl XXXII in Qualcomm Stadium, the NBA Finals, for Pope John Paul II and for President Bill Clinton. She was back in San Diego this year to sing at KABOO Del Mar. Jewel also is an Emmy-nominated actress, a bestselling author and has created three charities focusing on humanity environment, clean water and emotional health.
“Early in life and my career, I learned to be my own champion because no one else was going to be,” she told the Horatio Alger Association, which gives college scholarships to outstanding students from poor families. “I promise to be the support these students need as they navigate life’s challenges.”
Courtesy of www.sandiegouniontribune.com