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Science

The Father of Molecular Gastronomy Whips Up a New Formula 144

Posted by Zonk
from the delicious-science dept.
An anonymous reader writes "French chemist and cook Hervé This maintains his quest to find the scientific precision behind great tasting food. Chef This is just one of a growing number of cooks that approaches food from a scientific perspective; making recipes in a lab instead of in the kitchen. The difference is that This was one of the pioneers of the field. 'This and a colleague, the late Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti, conducted the experiments in their spare time. In 1988, the pair coined a term to describe their nascent field: molecular gastronomy. The name has since been applied to the kitchen wizardry of chefs like el Bulli's Ferran Adria and Alinea's Grant Achatz. But This is interested in basic culinary knowledge -- not flashy preparations -- and has continued to accumulate his precisions, which now number some 25,000.'"
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The Father of Molecular Gastronomy Whips Up a New Formula

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  • by DrogMan (708650) on Monday August 06, 2007 @03:36AM (#20128053) Homepage

    There was a (UK) TV program on recently with a bloke who specialises in puddings (Sweet Baby James or something it's called and he makes the most fantastic easy to make puddings!!!) and he challenged a scientific chef and Mrs Farmhouse cook to bake a Victoria sponge cake... The boffin at HQ went to great lengths about how important it was to measure the ingredients and combine them in such a way and timed the cooking to the second... Mrs. Farmhouse woman just put in some of this and enough of that and beat it up with a hand whisk until it looked OK then baked it "until it's done".

    Then they took the cakes to the cake buyer/tester in Harrods. Guess which one tasted and looked the best? The Mrs. Farmhouse one, of-course!

    There's also a series on right now hosted by some scientific cook bod - it's quite entertaining, (especially when he deep fried a whole chicken in the last series - left it in a second too long and it caught fire) but I can't help thinking his name ought to be a "new millenium" substitute for "Gordon Bennett"... It's "Heston Blumenthal".

  • Science and cookery (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 19061969 (939279) on Monday August 06, 2007 @03:47AM (#20128085)
    This article reminds me of a course that used to be run at Bristol University called, "The physics of a Black Forest gateau" by Peter Barham. By all accounts, it was tremendously popular and always fully booked, so much so that other culinary treats were dealt with in the same manner (http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2005/874.html)
  • Re:Lab Snacks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Monday August 06, 2007 @04:23AM (#20128211) Journal
    Come on, this is Slashdot. Half of the people here live off food that was flavor-engineered in a lab and vacu-formed into some sort of food-like eXtreme cheese thing.

    I highly recommend the book "Twinky, Deconstructed" to elaborate on your point. Informative, and despite the subject matter, makes for a light, enjoyable read.

    I've always cared about what I eat and could identify at least the basic purpose of most items on an ingredient label ("Sugar, sugar, an emollient, another sugar, preservative, etc"), but this book really taught me quite a lot. I can't say it did much to improve my apetite for mass-produced snack foods, but most of it blew me away as to why, for example, they use so many different sugars (short reason for a lot of the less obvious ingredients - the less water they use, the longer food stays fresh).

    It also surprised me how much of our food production qualifies as a matter of national security. Or how much of it comes from a mine rather than a farm (really!).


    (I have no connection to the author or publisher).
  • lab vs home made. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Monday August 06, 2007 @04:33AM (#20128227)
    There very good reasons that home made always tastes better then anything manufactured in a lab, and it's nothing to do with love or "vibe" or any of that hippy crap.

    one reason, is that at home we have the ability to adapt to variations in the raw product, which you will get no matter how hard you try to control in a lab.

    the other, is that the taste and smell receptors in our mouth are many factors more sensitive then lab equipment, meaning cooking "till it's done" is just a laymans way of saying a good cooks sense of smell is a much better indication of when food is ready then any lab insturment.

    so while the IDEA that food can be scientifically expressed is correct, we are a LONG way from being able compete with those old nanna's down the road who make that awesome apple pie.

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Monday August 06, 2007 @04:55AM (#20128299)
    I must say that working (and playing) with computers all of my life, I thoroughly enjoy cooking as a welcome diversion from the world of silicon into the world of the organic.

    My general rules for cooking are as follows:

    1. The wok is my best friend - in it I can do anything from simple stir fries to complex curries & other Asian dishes.

    2. Stir, stir and stir some more.

    3. Despite being a techie and part time programmer where accuracy and preparation are paramount, I NEVER obey a recipe. Cooking is always about tasting and making things up as you go along, I cannot stand the formality around eating - serve it up with a nice wine or two to friends and just get on with enjoying it.

    4. Unless you do something really silly, or try to make a recipe that's far too complex, it's impossible to mess things up. Again, it's all about making it up as you go along with a rough knowledge of what herbs go with what meats or fish.

    Any other programming cooks reading this?

  • by julesh (229690) on Monday August 06, 2007 @05:10AM (#20128341)
    One thing I've tried and loved is Blumenthal's ideas for low temperature cooking [wikipedia.org]. There's something about a joint of beef, roast for 10 hours at 55 degrees, that is hard to imagine until you've tried it...
  • by TheJasper (1031512) on Monday August 06, 2007 @06:16AM (#20128583)
    Actually I know a lot of cooking nerds. In fact, Andrew Tanenbaum has even written a cookbook called 'How to prepare your input'.

    My rules are:

    1. Taste it. Taste it raw, taste it cooking and taste it done. Taste herbs, spices, meat, fish, oil, vinegar. basically everything. Am I being clear on this?

    2. Nothing makes up for good ingredients and good materials. I generally don't like aluminum pans because the thermal properties suck.

    3. Because of being a programmer where accuracy and preparation are paramount, I NEVER obey a recipe. You see, recipes don't take into account local variations. Thus they are only guidelines. Following a recipe to the letter is often a prelude to disaster. anyway most recipes aren't even that exact. A pinch of salt. Medium heat.

    4. Cooking is easy. Most of it is a question of technique. This requires practice. Some techniques are difficult. Most aren't. Don't be afraid. Just do. And pretend that whatever comes out of the kitchen is exactly as you'd planned it.
  • by jfengel (409917) on Monday August 06, 2007 @09:55AM (#20130057) Homepage Journal
    Also, chef Jose Andres at Cafe Atlantico among others. One of my favorites: his "magic mojito", consisting of a ball of mojito-flavored cotton candy and a wad of "lime air", which is an intensely-flavored foam with a consistency of soap bubbles. (It's got to be some sort of edible emulsifier and lime oil.)

    Next week I'm going to his Minibar, basically a 30-course showoff of molecular gastronomy (and a lot more than $25, I'm afraid. It's a birthday present to a foodie friend of mine and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, at least at that price.)
  • by GoofyBoy (44399) on Monday August 06, 2007 @10:10AM (#20130273) Journal
    This is the first thing I think about when I hear that someone has a wok at home.

    Go to any Chinese restaurant and take a peak at their woks. The heat source is literally a series of blowtorches in a circle. You can't get that sort of consistent heat at home.
  • by wirelessjb (806759) on Monday August 06, 2007 @03:54PM (#20134423)
    Any reading of food as a science must start with Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's 1825 treatise, "The Physiology of Taste: Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy" brilliantly translated in 1949 by the equally impressive food writer MFK Fisher. Brillat-Savarin meditates on every aspect of food including the benefits of sugar and chocolate (new discoveries at the time), cures for thinness and obesity, the social value of restaurants, why beautiful women should be included in any dinner party*, and how to recognize a gourmand by their facial features. Fisher adds her own glosses with 20th century examples of the "professor"'s proclamations, playful chiding of the man's 19th century mentality, and obvious deep respect for his writing, his knowledge, and his love for gastronomy and desire to see it studied like the other "-onomies" that were becoming so fashionable at the time. Looks like it only took 182 years.

    The author: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Anthelme_Brillat -Savarin [wikipedia.org]

    The book: http://www.amazon.com/Physiology-Taste-Meditations -Transcendental-Gastronomy/dp/1582431035 [amazon.com]

    The translator: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._F._K._Fisher [wikipedia.org]

    * had to get the /. crowd's attention somehow

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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