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Biotech Science

Chefs As Chemists 266

circletimessquare writes "Using ingredients usually relegated to the lower half of the list of ingredients on a Twinkies wrapper, some professional chefs are turning themselves into magicians with food. Ferran Adrià in Spain and Heston Blumenthal in England have been doing this for years, but the New York Times updates us on the ongoing experiments at WD-50 in New York City. Xanthan Gum, agar-agar, and other hydrocolloids are being used to bring strange effects to your food. Think butter that doesn't melt in the oven, foie gras you can tie into knots, and fried mayonnaise."
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Chefs As Chemists

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  • fried mayonnaise! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:08PM (#21261859)
    'nuff said
  • by Werkhaus ( 549466 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:13PM (#21261901)
  • Two cents worth... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UncleTogie ( 1004853 ) * on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:23PM (#21261991) Homepage Journal

    I have to say that this is why I like watching Alton Brown's Good Eats. He actually understands the science of cooking, and is able to explain how it works without turning off the average person.

    I'm betting "molecular gastronomy" is going to REALLY take off within the next five years or so...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:43PM (#21262125)
    I totaly agree, Alton does more than show you recipes. He explains what happens when you;re cooking and why he does things. His cooking show covers everything from butchering to exotic recepies, from appliances to nutritional anthropology with a mix of humour that makes his show "Insert hokey music and lame animation"
  • by cyberzephyr ( 705742 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:44PM (#21262131) Journal
    Hello all,
    Currently I'm doing the Chef part of my life at this time. What is being described here is very old stuff [] and all this stuff is just commonplace technique nowadays. Adria, Achatz, Andres I have met or worked with. It's really not that amazing when you think that we as culinarians are (actually they are), just being creative instead of the things that a lot of people have been eating all along but in a different form. For instance: Grant Achatz (whom i think is Awesome) guinness that's thickened with Gelatin is just "Jello" "tm" but flavored with beer. Ferran Adria is the guy you seek if you want to know/learn stuff He invented this whole thing in first place about 10 or 12 years ago and it took the world by storm. He makes drops of olive encase in suger bags. Hell, there is a gut in chicago that invented a computer printer that makes edible and taste-infused menu's that you eat to before you order your food: []. Anyway, my whole point is: We as chefs, are very creative, funny and dedicated to bring the food world into the computer world accepept as munchies on a late night!
  • just a side thought: i think animal rights activists should be the most pro-genetically modified special interest group in the world. reason being, if you could genetically engineer foie gras in vats, or animal flesh, you would:

    1. feed all of the carnivores, more cheaply, and with less environmental impact
    2. not harm a single feeling conscious (cue the sad violins) beautiful harmless loving animal. it would be just tissue in vats you were harvesting

    of course things like mouthfeel, taste, etc. would need to be technologically refined over time. at first you would be making nothing better than spam. real gastromes would talk about the consistency of the flesh and the subtle flavors based on diet. but you could gradually, over time, approach a meat source that defies the experts to tell the difference from real meat

    however, you get the usual luddite reaction from animal rights activists: stop eating meat in the name of cruelty, stop GM food because it's an abomination

    yeah, right

    animal rights activists are an abomination: eating meat is perfectly natural

    animal rights activists should meld their artificial morality (it's certainly impossible in the natural world, outside of civilization) with artifical genetic engineering, and create the nirvana of an animal never harmed

    you really think it's harder to do that than convince carnivores to stop eating meat?

    path of least resistance friends. animal rights activists: pool your money, and get going with the GM startup
  • Molecular gastronomy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vorpal22 ( 114901 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @10:43PM (#21262591) Homepage Journal
    The technique is generally referred to as "molecular gastronomy", and has produced even weirder things than listed in the main article. For example, Dufresne has used "meat glue" (i.e. transglutaminase, which was, IIRC, designed to produce Chicken McNuggets) to make pasta entirely out of shrimp, and another chef has made flavoured edible menus out of soybean and potato starch with fruit and vegetable inks that come in such varieties as steak and sushi. Here's a page with some interesting links on Chow: []
  • Re:Old old old (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @10:56PM (#21262689) Homepage Journal
    It's not the speed of making it, but rather the texture that comes about from it. Many others have made ice cream using liquid nitrogen, and it is universally hailed as the smoothest ice cream available (at least until someone figures out how to do it with liquid helium). It's one of those things that is often done just for the sheer experience of it.
  • But I would suggest that if you eat a hamburger for lunch and wear leather shoes or a belt, you might want to do a hypocrisy check and see what your score is.

    Sanity check time. Eating a cow isn't the same as force feeding a goose until its liver basically explodes so that it's extra tasty.

    I spent a large portion of my childhood on a farm and have been through the whole cycle from feeding the calf to walking the adult cow in to get slaughtered. I have absolutely no problem with eating meat, hunting (provided it's done for food or to rid oneself of threats to land and crops, etc. I don't condone pure trophy hunting), and the like. In fact, I've done/do all of them myself.

    That said, I can't condone the torture of an animal just because you think engorging its liver will make it yummy. If you raise something for food, treat it with respect, and when it comes time to kill it, make it a clean kill. Doing otherwise shows a lack of respect for the things which keep you alive and, by extension, a lack of respect for yourself.

    (Oh, and I wear leather too. Quite a lot of it - coat, belts, several pairs of gloves, multiple pairs of shoes and boots, etc - and I view that as a positive thing. It means that one more part of the animal that helped feed someone gets used toward a positive end instead of being thrown away).
  • by niktemadur ( 793971 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @07:38AM (#21265153)
    A friend of mine is an excellent chef (mediterranean/mexican fusion with emphasis on seafood), regularly invited to prepare meals in places like Oslo, Paris, London, Evian (Switzerland), San Francisco, Acapulco, etc. No matter what city it is, he splurges on at least one meal at the most celebrated restaurant (according to the gastronomic insiders) in town, and money is no object on these special occasions.

    A couple of years ago, while visiting London, my friend and his wife went to Blumenthal's place, The Fat Duck, specifically for the sampler meal at three hundred pounds per person, for two people. Sixteen tiny courses, fifteen of them with their own specific wine.

    Just to give you an idea, the first course was a sphere chilled to the temperature of liquid nitrogen, handled with chemist's pliers. Within a second of being popped in the mouth, the sphere vaporized and expanded. Containing mostly gas, with some green tea, lemon and vodka, this did three things: cleansed the taste buds, stimulated the appetite and gave an immediate buzz.
    Supposedly, the fourth or fifth course was the proverbial sledgehammer to the head - a quail jelly on a bed of green pea puree and wheat. That's when the sky cracked open and the meaning of life was telepathically revealed from above. After that it was a two-hour haze of "artistic perfection".

    How many of us can say that a certain meal, a sequence of flavor combinations, caused a full-blown epiphany, a mystical experience?

    To this day, my friend's eyes glaze and focus off into infinity while remembering "the best meal I've ever had in my life, the best twelve hundred dollars (!!!) I've ever spent". The good wife agrees, even as the Harrod's shopping budget was obliterated by one dinner.
  • Re:You had me at... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:47AM (#21266711) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, though, I come from a cooking family. My dad and two of my brothers were pros, and damned good ones.

    The important thing about deep frying is that the results should not be fatty. You don't want much, if any fat in your fried foods. That's why you fry a white fish like hake or haddock for your fish and chips. You don't fry a fatty fish like salmon or swordfish, because even if your crust was perfect, the fish itself would be dense where you want it to light and tender. I normally prefer a fatty fish, but for fish and chips you want a sedentary fish that ambushes its prey, not one that cruises thousands of miles of oceans on its fat deposits.

    And speaking of chips, an ideal french fry (unattainable of course because you need the fat to carmelize the curst) would have no fat in it at all. A attainably good french fry has very little fat in it; the fat penetrates only a thin layer near the surface, where it drives out water (producing the sizzle) and breaks down starches into carmelized sugars, producing the crisp, golden crust. The oil does not penetrate the interior, but the intense heat does, vaporizing the water bound up in starch granules, causing them to explode like popcorn. The result is a good fry, crisp and golden on the outside, white and light as air on the inside.

    If you want to make a bad fry, the answer is simple: fry at a too low a temperature. The starch inside cooks slowly, releasing its water and giving it a grayish, transparent look. The frying time is longer, so the oil soaks through. A good fry is about yin and yang: gold and white; crunchy and tender. A bad fry is grayish brown and gray, and soggy all the way through. Why would you fry at too low a temperature? Simple, because you are cheap, lazy and unhygenic. As oil is used, it starts to go rancid. Rancid oil darkens the crust too quickly, so if you don't want your fries black, you turn the temperature down. Rancid oil of course is the worst possible fat you could eat, and your food ends up soaked with it.

    I've tried some frozen french fries that you cook in the oven, and they're not bad. The interiors are not dense, gray and soggy like a bad roadside diner. But the crust is not right; it's too fatty. Since fries aren't exactly a health food, I can't be bothered with them unless they are really, really good. Why take the health hit for anything but the best possible fry? And the best possible fry isn't all that bad; it's just a bit on the empty calorie side.

    I can see (I guess) the point of fried Mars Bars, although the universe of fried foods has so many incredible foods (like tempera) that I can't get too excited about it. But fried mayonnaise? Mayonnaise is an emulsion of fat and protein in water; cooking it only turns it into bad mayonnaise. The only point I can see to it is celebrating bad cooking.

    I'm not a foody, or particularly fussy about my food at all, but I grew up eating good food. I don't have any kind of emotional attachment to bad food. For a lot of people, bad food is soul food.

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson