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Molecular Gastronomy, Healthy or Hidden dangers ?

message posted 03-Jun-08 08:32:38
Despite Heston Blumenthal’s attempt a while back to announce its passing, molecular gastronomy remains a hot topic of debate in the hospitality industry. Talk to any chef for long enough and the question of whether foams and jellies constitute real cooking or if they’re just so much culinary smoke and mirrors will inevitably arise. In my experience however, no one has ever said that cutting edge food could actually be bad for you – until now that is.

Spanish three Michelin-starred chef Santi Santamaria of Can Fabes restaurant in Sant Celoni has recently hit out at his peers for their use of gelling agents and emulsifiers such as methylcellulose in their food, claiming they are putting their customer’s health at risk. Santamaria is quoted in the Daily Telegraph saying that, “Eating more than six grams of methylcellulose can be harmful to the health…It is discouraged in children under six years and I fear that recipes made popular by Ferran Adria and his court of followers are putting people at risk."

Where Santamaria has sourced his information from is not clear, but a google search revealed that methylcellulose is indigestible, used as a laxative and is the main component of KY Jelly. Not exactly appetizing it has to be said, but according to the Telegraph article, its culinary use is not prohibited.

Santamaria’s comments - made as part of an acceptance speech at a book award ceremony during which he also slammed chefs for being “preoccupied with creating sculptures or painting pictures with their work” - have not been welcomed by his fellow chefs who have accused him of being alarmist and damaging the prestige of the profession.

While we wait for Ferran Adria’s full response to Santamaria’s outburst to be published via the Alicia Nutrition and Science Centre Foundation in Cataluña, I spoke to two UK-based chefs on either side of the molecular divide for their opinion on the issue.

“What Santamaria’s said hasn’t made me re-think what we use at the restaurant,” said cutting edge chef Sat Bains whose eponymous Nottingham restaurant was recently named Best Restaurant by the Observer Food Monthly. “We don’t use methylcellulose anyway, only agar agar and gelatine which have been around for years. I try not to have too many foams and jellies on the plate. If a customer orders lemon sole they want to taste lemon sole. It’s all about using ingredients in moderation.”

Chef Chad Sarno of SAF restaurant in London who serves only nutritionally rich plant based dishes thinks Santimaria has a point.

“I use sodium algenate and agar agar gelling agents because they are plant or algae based but I steer clear of the man made stuff. If you ate that sort of food three times a day, everyday it wouldn’t be good for you. Once in a while is like letting loose at the weekend and drinking a bottle of bourbon. If you did that all the time you’d soon feel the effects.”

But what do you think? Do you agree with Santi Santamaria and would you support his call for chefs who use ingredients such as methylcellulose to inform customers of “the exact composition of the dishes they are served”?

message posted 03-Aug-08 00:31:16
Here we go....
Awhile back I commented on feeling a fraud with molecular magic.....
There was a primary reason to the use of substances chemical not as yet determined/never will be deemed clinically safe to ingest......I have great issues with nitrogen and all those clever stabilisers in my body, let alone my food....and it is a well known fact that smoked food is not good for you....toxic in much as polymers in old deep fat fryer fat! But KY jelly....juvenile toilet humour comes to mind.....Linda Lovelace....etc....(sorry!).
I must say I applaud amazing skill, but if I was getting opinionated, surely, what I really want is beautifully cooked food, amazing flavours, brilliant ingredients handled with care.
Too much fancy uploading and I'm wondering what's the deal.....
A bit like the mate that talks hide something.....
Whatever happened to Richard Neat? Now....that was a cook......still in Maroc?
Back to reality, we are essentially cooks; and as we get into the politics of skilled craftsmanship, where's the line drawn?
But we cannot restrain/hinder the deveplopment and progression of technique......and so......what am I on about? I forget or am lost.....To each their own, and I reiterate, well done to all you progressive least you are thinking and tinking outside the box(pls shoot the chap that coined this phrase!).

Kitchen Bitch
Kitchen Bitch
message posted 15-Jul-09 09:25:45
Definatly some Hidden Dangers with Molecular Gastronomy.

Dont Try it at Home !!!!

Chef blows off his hands
A German chef has blown off his hands while experimenting with a Heston Blumenthal-style cooking technique, according to a report in today's Daily Telegraph.

The 24-year-old man was seemingly trying to use liquid nitrogen in a recipe while cooking at his girlfriend's mother's house in Stahnsdorf, near Berlin.

Reports in a local newspaper suggest there was a 'huge explosion', which tore one of his hands off instantly, and left the other needing to be amputated later at hospital.

He reportedly said to police that he had been attempting to fill a gas lighter, but his girlfriend said the chef, who was a follower of "molecular gastronomy", had been trying to empty a canister of liquid nitrogen.

Molecular gastronomy is a scientific discipline involving the study of physical and chemical processes that occur in cooking. Liquid nitrogen is pure nitrogen at a very low temperature, which must be stored in special containers.
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