Molecular cooking is cool among the real cognoscenti

The Pundit is on the road visiting family, and has made a fascinating discovery: Molecular cooking is the next big thing. He learnt this from talking to real foodies at the local cricket club where his grandson is a minor star in the field of sport. The foodies there find molecular gastronomy really exciting. So he investigated further, and found this in the regular scientific literature:

Food for tomorrow?
How the scientific discipline of molecular gastronomy could change the way we eat
EMBO reports (2006) 7, 1062 – 1066

Hervé This

For years, a new culinary trend called ‘molecular cooking’ has been touted as the most exciting development in haute cuisine. It is now the newest fashion for chefs to offer their customers fake caviar made from sodium alginate and calcium, burning sherbets, spaghetti made from vegetables, and instant ice cream, fast-frozen using liquid nitrogen. In the most recent ranking of the world’s top 50 chefs—by the British magazine Restaurant—the top three chefs were Ferran Adria from El Bulli in Rosas, Spain; Heston Blumenthal from The Fat Duck in Bray, UK; and Pierre Gagnaire from his restaurant in Paris, France (Restaurant, 2006). In 2005, Blumenthal was first and Adria came second. What is remarkable is that all three of these talented and popular chefs have been inspired by molecular gastronomy.

What is molecular gastronomy? Is it only a temporary trend for people who are prepared to spend a small fortune on the latest in fine food, or is it here to stay? Is it a useful technique for both the average chef and anyone preparing dinner for their family? What does it mean for the future of food preparation? What are we going to eat tomorrow?

First, I will define molecular gastronomy, because there is still much confusion in the media about the true meaning of this term, in part because of mistakes Nicholas Kurti and I made when we created the discipline in 1988. But I will start by distinguish between cooking and gastronomy: the first is the preparation of food, whereas the latter is the knowledge of whatever concerns man’s nourishment. In essence, this does not concern food fashions or how to prepare luxury food—such as tournedos Rossini, canard à l’orange or lobster orientale—but rather an understanding of food; and for the more restricted ‘molecular gastronomy’, it is the chemistry and physics behind the preparation of any dish: for example, why a mayonnaise becomes firm or why a soufflé swells.

(More at link)

Update- The Origins of Molecular cooking:
EMBO reports (2011) 12, 191 – 196
Published online: 18 February 2011

  • Science and cooking: the era of molecular cuisine
  • Science and Society Series on Food and Science

Davide Cassi
Received 1 December 2010; Accepted 26 January 2011
In January 2009, I participated in a round-table discussion, “Does ‘Molecular Cuisine’ Exist?”, at Madrid Fusion, the largest gastronomy conference in the world. It was the most popular event at that conference, which is impressive considering that, until 20 years ago, the adjective molecular was never used in conjunction with the words gastronomy, cooking or cuisine. Indeed, when the poster for the first “International Workshop on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy”, held in Erice, Italy, appeared in 1992, many people at universities around the world thought it was a joke. Actually, its original title was simply “Science and Gastronomy”, but it had to be changed to sound less ‘frivolous’ and more academic for the printed announcement of the workshop. The term molecular was chosen as molecular biology was the hot scientific field at the time (McGee, 2008).
The interactions between science and cooking are as old as science itself…
The participants in the first Erice workshop included not only scientists, but also chefs and writers. The goal of the meeting was to explore four points: “to what extent is the science underlying these [cooking] processes understood; whether the existing cooking methods could be improved by a better understanding of their scientific bases; whether new methods or ingredients could improve the quality of the end-products or lead to innovations; whether processes developed for food processing and large scale catering could be adapted to domestic or restaurant kitchens.” As such, the novelty of the workshop with respect to other food-science meetings was the emphasis on gastronomy and real kitchens, rather than industrial processes and products…

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An Australian retail store:

Retail Store Open…
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The Red Spoon Co. Store
461 Liverpool Rd,
Strathfield, NSW 2135

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