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Molecular Gastronomy, Chefs and Catering

Molecular gastronomy is the application of science to culinary practice and more generally gastronomical phenomena.

The term was coined by the French scientist Herv� This and by the Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti. Both had investigated food preparation scientifically: Nicholas Kurti had given a presentation in 1969 at the Royal Institution called "The physicist in the kitchen"), and This had been testing culinary old wives's tales since March 1980.

The idea of using techniques developed in chemistry to study food was not a new one: it has a history back to the 18th century [1]. Herv� and This decided that a new, specific discipline should be created within that of food science, and looked for a name. The initial proposal by This was "Molecular Gastronomy", but Kurti, being a physicist, insisted on adding "and physical". This is why the discipline was at first called "Molecular and Physical Gastronomy" (also the title of This's PhD).

When Kurti died, This dropped the "and physical" to arrive at "Molecular Gastronomy", but Kurti's name was given to the continuing series of workshops that Kurti and This had directed every two years in Erice, at the Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture.

The fundamental objectives of molecular gastronomy were defined by This in his PhD thesis as:

Investigating culinary and gastronomical proverbs, sayings, old wives tales
Exploring existing recipes
Introducing new tools, ingredients and methods into the kitchen
Inventing new dishes
Using molecular gastronomy to help the general public understand the contribution of science to society

Molecular Gastronomy Resources.

Columns, Forums and Blogs
Organizations, Companies and Events
Restaurants and Stores

Columns, Forums and Blogs
eGullet: The Alinea Project
Food for Design
Hungry In Hogtown
Molecular Gastronomy and the Science of Cooking
Movable Feast
Pierre Gagnaire
The Guardian: Heston Blumenthal
The Times: Heston Blumenthal

BBC Radio 4: Kitchen Cornucopia (6/2001)
eGCI: Science of the Kitchen: Taste (4/2004)
eGCI: Science of the Kitchen: Texture (6/2004)
eGullet Q&A: Ferran Adri� (12/2004)
eGullet Q&A: Grant Achatz (3/2003)
eGullet Q&A: Harold McGee (11/2004)
eGullet Q&A: Heston Blumenthal (10/2002)
INRA: Recent Advances in Molecular Gastronomy (1/2005)

Cookwise (Shirley Corriher, 1997)
El Bulli 1983-1993 (Spanish) (Ferran Adri�, Juli Soler, Albert Adri�, 2005)
El Bulli 1994-1997 (Spanish) (Ferran Adri�, Juli Soler, Albert Adri�, 2005)
El Bulli 1998-2002 (Ferran Adri�, Juli Soler, Albert Adri�, 2003)
El Bulli 2003-2004 (Spanish) (Ferran Adri�, Juli Soler, Albert Adri�, 2005)
Kitchen Chemistry (Ted Lister, Heston Blumenthal, 2005)
Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor (Herv� This, 2005)
On Food and Cooking (Harold McGee, 2004)
Sous-Vide Cuisine (Joan Roca, 2005)
The New Kitchen Science (Howard Hillman, 2003)
The Science of Cooking (Peter Barham, 2001)
What Einstein Told His Cook (Robert Wolke, 2002)
What Einstein Told His Cook 2 (Robert Wolke, 2005)

MG in Copenhagen (Thorvald Pedersen, 2004)
Molecular Gastronomy: a scientific look to cooking (Herv� This, 2004)
Workshop On Molecular Gastronomy (Harold McGee, 2004)

Eat This: Extreme Cuisine (Week 1, Episode 2)

Organizations, Companies and Events
Asociacion Argentina de Gastronomia Molecular
Innova Concept
International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy
Lo Mejor de la Gastronom�a
Molecular Gastronomy Discussion List
Monell Chemical Senses Center
Research Chefs Association
Seminar INRA on Molecular Gastronomy

Peter Barham (University of Bristol)
Davide Cassi (Universita' di Parma)
David Gray and Andy Taylor (University of Nottingham)
Nicholas Kurti (Oxford University)
Harold McGee
Thorvald Pedersen (Royal Veterinary and Agricultural Unversity of Denmark)
Jorge Ruiz (Universidad de Extremadura)
Herv� This (INRA/Coll�ge de France)

Restaurants and Stores

Fenix (Richmond, VIC; Chef Raymond Capaldi)

DC Duby (Richmond, BC; Chefs Dominique and Cindy Duby)
Lobby (Toronto, ON; Chef Robert Bragagnolo)

Pierre Gagnaire (Paris, Chef Pierre Gagnaire)

Amador (Langen, Chef Juan Amador)
Remake (Berlin, Chef Cristiano Rienzner)

Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni (Como Lake, Chef Ettore Bocchia)

Tapas Molecular Bar (Tokyo, Chef Jeff Ramsey)

Saint Pierre (Chef Emmanuel Stroobant)

Alkimia (Barcelona, Chef Jordi Vil�)
Comer� 24 (Barcelona, Chef Carles Abellan)
El Bulli (Rosas, Chef Ferran Adri�)
Espai Sucre (Barcelona, Chef Jordi Butr�n)
Mugaritz (Otzazulueta, Chef Andoni Aduriz)
Restaurante Arzak (San Sebastian, Chef Juan Mari Arzak)

United Kingdom
Anthony's (Leeds, Chef Anthony Flinn)
The Fat Duck (Bray, Chef Heston Blumenthal)

United States
Alinea (Chicago, IL; Chef Grant Achatz)
Antidote (Sausalito, CA; Chef Eric Torralba)
Caf� Atl�ntico (Washington, DC; Chef Jose Andres)
Cru (New York, NY; Chef Shea Gallante)
davidburke and donatella (New York, NY;Chef David Burke)
Gilt (New York, NY; Chef Paul Liebrandt)
Minibar (Washington, DC; Chef Jose Andres)
ONE.Midtown Kitchen (Atlanta, GA; Chef Richard Blais)
Restaurant L (Boston MA; Chef Pino Maffeo)
Room 4 Dessert (New York, NY; Chef Will Goldfarb)
Moto (Chicago, IL; Chef Homaro Cantu)
wd-50 (New York, NY; Chef Wylie Dufresne)
Venue (Hoboken, NJ; Chef James George)

Clifton Food Range
Electrolux Cook Chill System
iSi Profi/Gourmet Whip
Rational SelfCooking Center
Techne Thermoregulator

Paris Gourmet: Cuisine-Tech
Texturas | Albert y Ferran Adri�
Will Powder

Molecular Gastronomy

To me a kitchen is just like a science laboratory and cooking is just another experimental science. Imagine a chemistry laboratory. You will find chemicals of course, but also containers to mix and react them as well as devices to control the temperature of the reactions and measure out the quantities of the chemicals for each reaction. Then, perhaps less familiar, you will find machines to determine the reaction products - to tell you the results of your experiments.

Your kitchen is full of apparatus - devices to heat and cool, tools to mix, cut and grind, and measure out ingredients - and materials that you react together (the food ingredients). Every time you follow a recipe you are conducting an experiment. You measure out the ingredients, mix (or react) them together following the instructions and then test the result - by eating the resulting dish. Then you follow the scientific method by testing the result of your experiment (the flavour and texture of your dish) against your model (the photo in the cookery book). Usually we are disappointed - the photos in the cookery books always looks better than our first effort. So we try again, changing what we do. A good cook will use their experience to vary the temperature, or the proportions of the ingredients to get the next attempt to come out better. A scientific cook will read the instructions in the recipe and ask whether they make sense and if not change them.

The application of science to domestic and restaurant cooking has developed into the new science of Molecular Gastronomy - the application of scientific principles to the understanding and improvement of gastronomic food preparation. Its form has largely been determined by a series of meetings between chefs, scientists and food writers held at the Ettore Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture in Erice, Sicily over the course of the last 10 years. These meetings (The International Workshops on Molecular and Physical Aspects of Gastronomy) were founded by the late Nicholas Kurti (who was one of the foremost low temperature Physicists of the 20th Century) following an initial suggestion from Elizabeth Thomas who runs her own cooking school in California.

Since Nicholas Kurti passed away I have helped Dr Herv� This of the Ecol� de Paris to organise the Erice Workshops. The diverse discussions at these workshops have helped to define the new science of Molecular Gastronomy The main questions that those of us involved in Molecular Gastronomy are trying to address are strongly interdisciplinary, as is only to be expected in a subject which is concerned with the whole process of the preparation of food, from the raw ingredients to the actual dish on the plate. Molecular Gastronomy encompasses such diverse issues as:

� How and why we evolved our particular taste and flavour sense organs and our general food likes and dislikes?
� How do production methods affect the eventual flavour and texture of food ingredients?
� How are these ingredients changed by different cooking methods?
� Can we devise new cooking methods that produce unusual and improved results of texture and flavour?
� How do our brains actually interpret the signals from all our senses to tell us the "flavour" of food?
� How is our enjoyment of food affected by other influences - the environment in which we eat the food, our mood, etc?

Although at the moment there is only one research group (that of Herv� This in Paris) that is devoted entirely to Molecular Gastronomy, there are a several groups working on individual aspects of Molecular Gastronomy especially the mechanisms of aroma release and the perception of taste and flavour. Two of most important are those of Prof Andy Taylor at the University of Nottingham and the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia, USA. Both have been involved in the Erice meetings.

The main driving force to develop Molecular Gastronomy at the moment are collaborations between scientists and chefs. In France Herv� This works with several Michelin starred chefs including Pierre Garganier and Phillipe Conticini. Here in the UK my own collaboration with Heston Blumenthal, of the Fat Duck, has been very fruitful and influential (see the article "A scientist in the kitchen"). My own interest in Molecular Gastronomy derives from my interest in understanding the physical and chemical process involved in cooking. Together with Heston Blumenthal we are using our increasing understanding to develop new dishes and cooking processes. The cooking of meat and fish at low temperatures (see the article "A scientist in the kitchen") is one good example of a new technique that has already found its way into the restaurant.

Further developments in the pipeline include a filtration system for stocks and consomm�s that will reduce preparation time by many hours or even days and produce crystal clear sauces and jellies. The use of ultrasonic mixing has the potential to make novel emulsions - how about a vodka mayonnaise? The possibilities are endless and some will surely soon escape from the restaurant to the domestic kitchen. But there is much more to Molecular Gastronomy than just the physical and chemical changes during food preparation. One area that fascinates me is how all the senses play their own roles in our appreciation of food. Even our sense of touch can affect our perception of flavour.

Try this experiment for yourselves. Try tasting some ice cream - it should taste good, like ice cream. Now take the same ice cream and while putting a spoonful in your mouth close your eyes and fondle a piece of velvet cloth. It will taste creamier than before! But even more astonishing if you rub your hand over a piece of fine sandpaper while taking yet another spoonful, the ice cream will seem to become gritty. It seems that what we feel with our hands with our eyes closed can be transferred in our brains to the tongue.

Another truly astonishing fact is that the sound of food changes our expectations. One simple example comes from the humble potato crisp. The marketing people have known for a long time that they need to sell crisps in packets that themselves crackle - if they try to market crisps in packs that don't have the right sound then we consumers think the crisps are stale. Today we are just beginning to realise the important roles all our senses play in affecting the way in which our brains interpret flavour. But we have a great deal to learn before we fully understand the complexities of how we taste food and perceive and appreciate flavour and texture. This journey of discovery which is the new science of Molecular Gastronomy will be a stimulating and exciting one.

This weekend, however, in a move that will have serious foodies everywhere reaching for a reviving pinch of aromatic herbs, the triple-starred Michelin chef is rejecting the cult of 'molecular gastronomy' that has followed in his wake, arguing that the phrase is meaningless. While he will not be renouncing the snail porridge and smoky-bacon ice cream that have made his cooking famous, Blumenthal is hoping to draw attention back to the food itself and away from the technical wizardry.
Together with two more of the best known and revered chefs in the world, Blumenthal has drawn up a statement of intent, a kind of low-key manifesto, that sets out an international agenda for great cooking. It is not, he says, a new departure, but a clarifying of traditional principles, a chance to explain what he has been trying to do all along.

The two-page statement, revealed to The Observer's restaurant critic and food writer, Jay Rayner, has been composed over a four-year period in collaboration with Ferran Adria of the renowned El Bulli restaurant near the town of Roses in Spain, and with Thomas Keller of Per Se and the French Laundry in the United States.

The three chefs, who have an astonishing 12 Michelin stars between them, put their ideas down with the help of the food writer Harold McGee, whose 1984 book On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen has been credited with starting the trend referred to as 'molecular gastronomy'. It is a trend which, for them, has gone far enough. 'The danger is that technology overtakes the value of the dish,' Blumenthal said.

This might sound a mild enough remark, but for cooks who work at the chopping edge of the culinary wave known as 'future food' it is as if Jamie Oliver had been spotted sneaking a bite of a turkey twizzler.

Blumenthal, famed for the 18-course tasting menus he serves at the acclaimed Fat Duck at Bray in Berkshire, suggests that he, Adria and Keller have been misinterpreted: 'There are people out there who are completely missing the point.'

Three crucial principles of cookery are spelled out in the statement: excellence, openness and integrity. 'We do not pursue novelty for its own sake,' it reads. The emphasis, in other words, should be on quality ingredients handled with sophistication, but with due respect to traditional methods. The deep-fried mayonnaise and hot langoustine jellies of Blumenthal's disciples may well be all right in their place, but the three chefs argue that an obsession with the seductive scientific techniques they are still pioneering, such as centrifuging and desiccating ingredients, or vacuum cooking and low-temperature cooking, are not the main point of the exercise.

As the statement explains: 'They are a few of the many tools that we are fortunate to have available as we strive to make delicious and stimulating dishes.'

'They are trying to distance themselves from the label they have been given,' said Rayner. 'Their point is that it is all about the food on the plate. They are just a little more precise in what they do than others.'

Before he opened the Fat Duck in 1995, Blumenthal had spent just one week working at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, but his ideas about taste have swept Britain. His brand of gadget-heavy kitchen alchemy won his recent BBC series, In Search of Perfection, unexpectedly high ratings. Although the ideas sound like nonsense at first - who wants to eat snail porridge anyway? - the impact of the dishes he has created has forced the restaurant world to take him seriously.

This school of scientific cookery is thought to have been born in 1969, when Nicholas Kurti, a professor of atomic physics at Oxford University, gave a lecture at the Royal Institution with the title 'The Physicist in the Kitchen'. He later came up with the term 'molecular gastronomy' as a way of winning academic funding for research into cookery, but it is not a phrase liked by Blumenthal.

In spite of the statement, the chef plans to continue experimenting with new technologies, with particular attention to smell, in the coming year. We have not seen the last of liquid nitrogen cookery on these shores, as sure as eggs is eggs. If, indeed, they still are.

What is molecular gastronomy?

Molecular gastronomy combines science with the art of cooking, often with startling results. Devotees include UK chef Heston Blumenthal, whose kitchen at the Michelin-rated Fat Duck restaurant resembles a laboratory, with centrifuges, refractometer and liquid nitrogen in place of recipe books. Some have dismissed molecular gastronomy as 'cooking for eggheads', others have been bowled over, calling it the 'science of deliciousness'

Dubbed gastronomic wizards, chefs in this field study the molecular properties of food under different cooking techniques, creating mind-bending dishes, such as Parmesan shaped like spaghetti, carrot in a foam dollop and bacon-and-egg ice cream. Nicholas Kurti, a former atom bomb scientist, laid the foundations for molecular gastronomy in the Sixties. Kurti used microwave absorption to create a reversed baked Alaska dessert - in which the outside was cold and the inside hot.

By collaborating with French chemist Herve This and food writer Harold McGee, an international symposium was set up, sparking debate between professional cooks and scientists. Dr This continues to push the boundaries in this field.

With the interest in molecular gastronomy still surging, some rubbish it as just a fad, notably Gordon Ramsay, who says: 'A chef should use his fingers and his tongue - not a test tube.'

tcapper message posted 29-Dec-06 12:05:06
The godfather of molecular gastronomy Ferran Adria

Ferran Adri� Acosta is a catalan chef born 14 May 1962 in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, and is the famed head chef of El Bulli Restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava.

Ferran Adri� began his culinary career in 1980 during his stint as dishwasher at the Hotel Playafels in Catalonia, in the town of Castelldefels. The chef de cuisine at this hotel instructed him in the preparation of traditional Spanish cuisine. At age 19 he was drafted to the military where he worked as a cook. In 1984, at the age of 22, Adri� joined the kitchen staff of the then-unknown El Bulli as a line cook. Eighteen months later, he became the head chef. Adri� is often associated with "molecular gastronomy," although he does not consider his cuisine to be of this category, along with British chef Heston Blumenthal. Molecular gastronomy melds science and technology with culinary practices and procedure, boldly experimenting with new technologies and unexpected textures and flavors. Adri�'s stated goal is to "provide unexpected contrasts of flavor, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner."[1] This is also combined with a great dose of irony and sense of humour making his dishes highly �patants. As he likes to say: "The ideal customer doesn't come to El Bulli to eat but to have an experience," an assertion widely mocked in Spain.

El Bulli is only open from April to September. Adri� spends the other six months of the year perfecting recipes in his workshop, "El Taller," in Barcelona. He is famous for his thirty course gourmet menu.

He is best known for creating "culinary foam", which in his research to enhance flavour proscribes cream and egg and is only made of the main ingredient and "air" (in a whipped cream maker equipped with N2O cartridges). Adri�'s foam creations include foamed espresso, foamed mushroom and foamed beet.

Today he is considered one of the best chefs in the world and holds rank 1 in the European Restaurant Ranking.

El Bulli has 3 Michelin stars and is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the Western world. In 2005 it was ranked second in the Restaurant Top 50, and it attained the top spot in 2006, displacing The Fat Duck in England.

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Tags: Molecular Catering , Molecular Chefs , Molecular Gastronomy

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