Posts Tagged ‘thomas keller’

Has molecular gastronomy reached the plateau of productivity?

Monday, January 26th, 2009

pipa
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 www.askoxford.com, 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:
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Upcoming books on sous vide

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

A number of books related to molecular gastronomy and food science will appear this fall – I’ve previously mentioned the Fat Duck and Alinea cookbooks. But there is more, much more! This time I would like to draw the attention to two books on sous vide which are due to appear in October. And notice how nice the titles compliment each other – one is under pressure, the other one under vacuum!

Thomas Keller, known from the French Laundry, Bouchon and per se, has written the book “Under Pressure – Cooking Sous Vide” (the Under Pressure title was also used by NY Times in a 2005 feature article on sous vide). According to the publisher, Keller and his chefs de cuisine have blazed the trail to perfection through years of trial and error and they show the way in this collection of never-before-published recipes from his landmark restaurants.

The book “Sous-Vide Garen im Vakuum” (Sous vide cooking under vacuum) by Viktor Stampfer (known from the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai) has received much less attention, but certainly deserves to mentioned. The title is in German, but do not despair – it seems to be a bilingual edition with German and English text (can anyone confirm this?), but so far it’s only available for preorder from the German Amazon. According to the publisher the book gives an introduction to the equipment used including sealing devices and recommended temperatures for cooking together with numerous recipes.

These are not the first books to appear on sous vide – enthusiasts have probably obtained one or more of the books by Roca, Farber, Ghazala, Leadbetter, Choain/Noël and Calmejane/Barrier – but I’m quite sure that the new books will complement these very nicely, and they will certainly be more available as several of the others have unavailable for some time.

Adria, Blumenthal, Keller and McGee with statement on “new cooking”

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

On Sunday, November 10 2006, in The Guardian, Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller and Harold McGee shared a statment on the “new cooking” with the readers. They feel “widely misunderstood” and argue that molecular gastronomy is “overemphasized and sensationalized”. Quite a surprising statement from people who have benefited greatly from the increased attention that molecular gastronomy has received lately. On the other hand – many journalists still tend to be stuck up with Heston Blumenthals snail porridge and egg & bacon ice cream, so I can agree that molecular gastronomy is not always properly understood. The four main points in their statement (with my comments) are:

  • Three basic principles guide our cooking: excellence, openness, and integrity.
  • Our cooking values tradition, builds on it, and along with tradition is part of the ongoing evolution of our craft.
  • Well certainly no one can disagree with the first statement… As for tradition – of course cooking has evolved a lot over the last couple thousand years – so again I would say that this is quite obvious. What molecular gastronomy (in my opinion) is about is, from a scientific viewpoint, to increase the understanding of what is going on. Tradition tells us nothing about this whereas science has told us a lot!

  • We embrace innovation – new ingredients, techniques, appliances, information, and ideas – whenever it can make a real contribution to our cooking.
  • I guess this is where molecular gastronomy (or the-science-previously-known-as-molecular-gastronomy as ABK&M might call it) comes in. I note that they only embrace it though if it “can make a real contribution” to their cooking. In other words, they embrace they technological aspects of molecular gastronomy which according to Hervé This’ latest definition isn’t really a part of molecular gastronomy.

  • We believe that cooking can affect people in profound ways, and that a spirit of collaboration and sharing is essential to true progress in developing this potential.
  • Again – nothing really new here… except that one could always wish for even more sharing and openness regarding techniques and ingredients. But all in all ABK&M have been good at publishing their recipes and findings (as should be evident from the books listed at khymos.org). Of course this also alludes to the intellectual property debate which was started of by this article.

    So what do we make of this? First thing is that none of them are scientists (save McGee who holds a BSc in physics and who BTW has defined molecular gastronomy as “the scientific study of deliciousness”). In a way it’s understandable that they don’t want to be viewed upon as scientists but rather artists. But it is a little strange though, because the article does have a negative stance on molecular gastronomy. This is surprising from a group of people who have both benefited from and contributed to molecular gastronomy by adding an artistic component to the underlying science. Secondly I wonder if it’s about fashion as well. Perhaps the air is going out of the balloon now? If molecular gastronomy is not übercool anymore, it’s time to move on with something new to attract guests. But is it really time to “reject the cult of molecular gastronomy” (Vanessa Thorpe of The Guardian, in the article “Mad scientist? No, I’m just seroious about food”)? If you ask me, my answer is “No”!