Posts Tagged ‘science enabled cooking’

New term for molecular gastronomy?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

For a true multi modal experience I can imagine that restaurants and chefs who are into ORGASMIC, a new proposed acronym for science enabled cooking, will serve desserts accompanied by the orgasmatron (picture via BoingBoing).

The definition and use of the term molecular gastronomy has been a recurring topic here at Khymos. In my opinion no better name has been deviced, but that may actually change now. I just received an email which let me know that:

A group of influential international chefs have sequestered since yesterday in Alicia, Spain. Their mission has been to find a more palatable term for the dreaded “Molecular Gastronomy”. The consensus seems to be leaning towards ORGASMIC, an acronym for ORganoleptics, Gastronomy, Art, & Science Meet In Cuisine. A final vote on the proposed name change is scheduled for tomorrow morning, followed by the unveiling at a press conference.

Unfortunately information about which chefs have been invited to the event is scarce, so it’s difficult to judge about what impact this will have. Nevertheless, since the acronym includes so many of the different aspects related to molecular gastronomy I likely that the new name will eventually replace the term molecular gastronomy. I’ll update once I have more details!

Update: Fellow blogger Aiden Brooks is currently living in Barcelona and has many more details on this. It seems that there will actually be a new Erice meeting and that the current “secret session” is a run up to the next International Workshop on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy.

International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

The International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science (IJGFS) is planned for launch this year. Elsevir is mentioned as a publisher, but there is currently no further information on the Elsevir website. The journal is initiated by AZTI-tecnalia, a Spanish technology center specializing in marine and food research, in collaboration with ALICIA, a Catalan research centre focusing on technological innovation in kitchen science and the dissemination of agronourishment and gastronomic heritage. The restaurant Mugaritz and the websites aliment@tec and Ciencia y gastronomia also have their logos on the IJGFS website. The objective of the journal is to “fill the gap in the expanding fields of Gastronomy and Food Science, by adopting a scientific approach”.

Has molecular gastronomy reached the plateau of productivity?

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Loquat fruit (known as pipa in Chinese) piled up at Mercat St. Joseph in Barcelona.

Molecular gastronomy was recently chosen as word of the month (not quite sure exactly which month this was). They give the following definition:

the art and practice of cooking food using scientific methods to create new or unusual dishes

This is not the best definition I’ve seen, to be honest. Why should one limit it to new or unusual dishes? When taken to extremes this only results in gimmickery. Strangely enough there are no hits when I search for “molecular gastronomy” at, so one might wonder whether they changed their mind? Personally I feel that molecular gastronomy should strive to improve both home cooking and restaurant cooking. That’s also what I tried to convey with my 10-part series with tips for practical molecular gastronomy.

The Webster’s New Millennium dictionary has this definition:

Ten tips for practical molecular gastronomy

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

In a recent survey 72% of chefs say they may want to experiment with molecular gastronomy in 2007. That’s an impressive number and considering the attention molecular gastronomy gets in media I bet many home cooks would want to experiment in the kitchen as well. Here’s a list of things to consider if you want to make a scientific approach towards cooking:

1. Use good and fresh raw materials of the best quality available.

2. Know what temperature you’re cooking at. A dip probe thermometer with a digital read out is a cheap way to bring science into your kitchen.

3. Get a basic understanding of heat transfer, heat capacity and heat conductance. “Heat” in this context des not imply high temperature since it also applies to the understanding of freezing/thawing.

4. Learn how to control the texture of food. Some key points: temperature induced changes (freezing, heating), emulsifiers, thickeners, gelling agents, moisture content, pressure/vacuum, osmosis.

5. Learn how to control taste and flavor. Some key points: flavor pairings, spice synergies/antagonies, influence of temperature (Maillard reaction, caramelization, temperature stability, volatility), taste enhancers, taste suppresants, solubility of flavour compounds in fat/water, extraction.

6. Remember that prolonged exposure to a flavor causes desenzitation, meaning that your brain thinks the food smells less even though it’s still present in the same amount. Therefore, let different flavours enhance each other. Similarly, variation in taste, texture, temperature and color can open up new dimensions in a dish. This is referred to as “increased sensing by contrast amplification”.

7. Be critial to recipes and question authority – they do not necessarily represent “the truth”. Nevertheless, you can certainly learn a lot from the experts.

8. Dare to experiment and try new ingredients and procedures. Do control experiments so you can compare results. When evaluating the outcome, be aware that your own opinions will be biased. Have a friend help you perform a blind test, or even better a triangle test to evaluate the outcome of your experiments.

9. Keep a written record of what you do! It would be a pity if you couldn’t recreate that perfect concoction you made last week, simply because you forgot how you did it.

10. Have fun!

Heat causes many changes in food, but few appreciate how important it is to know at what temperature they are cooking and at what temperature the desired change occurs.

These tips for molecular gastronomy relate to the technical and scientific aspects of food preparation and eating, and I plan to elaborate on each of the points in separate blog posts. However, according to Hervé This’ definition of molecular gastronomy, one should also investigate the social and artistic components of cooking. A good example of this is the “Five Aspects Meal Model” developed at Grythyttan in Sweden (Gustafsson, I.B. et al. Journal of Food Service, 2006, 84.). Although intended for a restaurant setting, the general idea can also be applied for home cooking.

The meal takes place in a room (room), where the consumer meets waiters and other consumers (meeting), and where dishes and drinks (products) are served. Backstage there are several rules, laws and economic and management resources (management control system) that are needed to make the meal possible and make the experience an entirety as a meal (entirety – expressing an atmosphere).

Or to put it differently: average food eaten together with good friends while you’re sitting on a terrace with the sun setting in the ocean will taste superior to excellent food served on plastic plates and eaten alone in a room with mess all over the place.

One last thing: once you’re finished in the kitchen with your culinary alchemy, your gastro physics, your cutting edge science cuisine, your molecular cooking, your hypermodern emotional cooking, your science food or whatever fancy name you attach to it – remember the social and artistic components when you serve the food. Just so people won’t refer to you as a techno chef, a mad scientist or a modern day Willy Wonka. After all, molecular gastronomy is about the science of deliciousness, not technical wizardry.

Questions and topics for future blog posts are welcome at webmaster [a] (substitute @ for [a]) or as a comment below.

The Joy of Evidence-Based Cooking

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

In a recent Science article (Science 2006, 314 (5803) 1235 (requires subscription, but text has been posted in a newsgroup), Martin Enserink writes about Hervé This and molecular gastronomy. One of his projects is to rid cook books of the many errors.

One of This’s obsessions is that chefs, despite knowing so little about science, have developed such elaborate laws. Over the years, he has meticulously collected more than 25,000 instructions, called précisions in French, from cookbooks, many of which are useless, he says. So where do they come from? “Our parents love us. Why are they teaching us all these rules that make no sense?” His hypothesis: Cooks, using trial and error, remembered the circumstances in which they created a successful dish, even if they were irrelevant, and made them part of the recipe.

The article also touches upon the different views Harold McGee and Hervé This have on what molecular gastronomy is and/or should be. Whereas This wants the help of cooking schools to test his précisions, McGee is more reluctant: “I’m not sure I’d spend so much time studying misunderstandings of the past”.

Hervé This giving a demonstration
(picture from Science, Credit: Ppierre Beachemin/ITHQ)