Posts Tagged ‘definition’

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.

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:

Blumenthal: “Molecular gastronomy is dead”

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

As a follow up to last weeks statement from Adria, Blumenthal, Keller and McGee (article, my comments) The Guardian have interviewed Heston Blumenthal. He now says that MG creates artifical boundries: “Molecular makes it sound complicated,” he says. “And gastronomy makes it sound elitist.”. And Heston isn’t keen on either (at least not anymore…).

According to Hervé This, there’s still some 25.000 cooking instructions left to test! And when it comes to the understanding of how the sense of smell works, we’ve just got started. So sorry Heston, I think it’s a bit early to dismiss molecular gastronomy already now.

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 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 í¼bercool 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”!

    One more article by Hervé This

    Monday, November 13th, 2006

    Now that I’m at it, I found yet another article by Hervé This entitled Molecular Gastronomy and the Foundation “Food Science and Food Culture”, published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 2006, 5, 48. About the name “molecular gastronomy”, Hervé This writes:

    Molecular gastronomy, why such a pompous name? And is it some useless activity of the idle rich or wealthy foodies? Of course not! First, a differentiation should be made between cooking and gastronomy. Cooking means preparing dishes, whereas gastronomy, according to the promoter of the word, means “intelligent knowledge of whatever concerns man’s nourishment” (Brillat-Savarin 2006). When this knowledge is history, the activity is “historical gastronomy,” but when it comes to the study of chemical and physical transformations involved in culinary practice, then it is “molecular gastronomy.”

    He goes on to distinguish it from culinology (which BTW is a trademark – “How can science be patented?” Hervé asks). What is even more interesting, is that he includes a modification of the original five points that were published in his PhD thesis (and also included in the 2002 article “Molecular gastronomy” in Angewandte Chemie):

    1. investigate recipes
    2. collect and test culinary proverbs, old wives’ tales, and so on
    3. invent new dishes based on 1 and 2
    4. introduce new tools, ingredients, and methods in the kitchen
    5. use cooking to show that the physical and biological sciences are wonderful

    He writes that this was a major mistake because 3 and 4 are technological, not scientific, and 5 is political. Because of this, he has recently changed the objectives of what he thinks molecular gastronomy should be. He notes that a dish contains a “love” component, an “art” component and a “technical” component. And molecular gastronomy should investigate these three, but only from a scientific point of view. Read more about definitions of molecular gastronomy.

    Molecular gastronomy misunderstood?

    Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

    Approximately a month ago Harold McGee suggested that the term “molecular gastronomy” should be ditched. Now Ferran Adrií  who has been visiting San Francisco claims that his cooking is often incorrectly labeled molecular gastronomy. More on this from

    Adrií  says what’s come out of his experimentation has often been misunderstood and incorrectly labeled molecular gastronomy or molecular cooking.
    “Come on,” he said, throwing his hands into the air. “It doesn’t mean anything. People think Ferran Adrií  and they think chemist. ”

    Harold McGee fills in:

    “What he’s doing doesn’t start or end with science,” McGee said in an interview. “It’s just one of the many tools he uses.” He takes natural ingredients and transforms them into something interesting.

    I guess Ferran Adrií  wants his cooking to be not only molecular gastronomy (or science if you like), but a lot more than that, namely art. Perhaps this can be traced back to an artificial boundry between the “hard” and “soft” sciences? At this point I think it’s important to take a look at some definitions of molecular gastronomy. Thorvald Pedersen has definied it in a way that overcomes this boundry. According to him, molecular gastronomy is “The art and science of choosing, preparing and eating good food”. This definition captures the important point that there is an interplay between art and science.

    Since Ferran Adrií  goes on using many techniques which are familiar for chemists and other scientists, but still quite unusual in the everyday kitchen, I see no reason not to label his cooking molecular gastronomy. One could say that when molecular gastronomy misses the artistic dimension, it is perhaps more of academic interest. (But those who are comfortable with science know that it has a beauty of it’s own!)

    Is the term “molecular gastronomy” obsolete?

    Monday, October 2nd, 2006

    According to Emma Marris at The Sceptical Chymist, Harold McGee, author of my favorite book “On Food and Cooking” has suggested that the term “molecular gastronomy” should be ditched.

    He noted that most chefs labeled as molecular gastronomists rejected the label and say that their experiments rarely take place on the molecular level. […] These chefs aren’t looking into molecules, says McGee, “they are cooking with ingredients. They are artists, not chemists.”