Have you ever wondered what is that chef doing with scientific kits on TV or websites like YouTube? Why is he pouring gas-like substance on the dish? Why is that chef telling people that powder is the sauce? Today, I would like to introduce the idea of molecular gastronomy, marriage of science and cooking.
Molecular gastronomy was introduced as scientists wanted to discover the science behind why dishes reacted certain ways. For example, why a souffle swells or why mayonnaise becomes firm. Scientists and chefs got more and more experimental and began to manipulate foods and adding chemicals to create things that had never been created before.
There were two scientists who loved to cook; Nicholas Kurti and Herve This.
Nicholas Kurti was born in May 14th, 1908 at Budapest, Hungary. His main study was ultra-low temperature physics. Herve This was born in 1955 at France. His main area in science was molecular chemistry.
It all started from a sweet dessert called souffle. In 1980, Herve This was cooking cheese souffle in his own kitchen. The recipe he was following gave strict instructions to add the egg yolks two at a time. However, Herve This added in all of the yolks together and suffered the consequences of failure. Instead of giving up on souffles, This started stuyding them, analyzing and experimenting to see what worked and what did not. Soon, he was collecting cooking precision. As This had more and more experiments, he realized that a systematic and scientific study of food preparation had largely been ignored.
Herve This partenered with Nicholas Kurti who was a physics professor at Oxford University at the time and two scientists launched a new discipline of molecular gastronomy. Some chefs disagree and call it such as the modernist cuisine or experimental cuisine but they all mean same, referring to a new approach to cooking. At first, the field attracted small amounts of devotees then as This and Kurti demonstrated the understanding the science of cooking could lead to amazing creations, cooks and people began to salivate.
Today, many renowned chefs have embraced molecular gastronomy to create bizarre dishes that are impressive in looks and taste. If Kurti and This did not innovate the idea of molecular gastronomy, field of culinary would be one dimensional. Because we have the innovative idea of molecular gastronomy, there are new cooks who wants to focus on the idea and more ideas to learn for experienced chefs.
Molecular gastronomy consists many ways to cook but mainly used are:
- foam-like foods using an immersion blender
- dehydration and changing the state by using chemicals such as carbon dioxide and liquid nitrogen
- spherification; method of making liquids look like jelled balls caviar
- sous-vide; method of cooking food by sealing it in an airtight bag and cooking in a low temperature water bath for a long time.
I believe the idea of molecular gastronomy is important as the new ideas introduced to the culinary field, more people who are interested will follow and join to increase the popularity of the career. Also, with the molecular gastronomy active on the field, renowned chefs will be working on the other ideas as well and when those ideas are introduced to people, it will be easier to approach to chefs because of what happened when molecular gastronomy was introduced.
To me, the idea of molecular gastronomy is not just a shocking idea of culinary skills but it brought me to the field. I was a chemistry student at University of Western Ontario before coming to George Brown. I was invited to get to see a chef introducing what and how science effected culinary and that amazed me. 3 years after, when I wanted to study different path, the idea of molecular gastronomy came to me and it affected how I love cooking and maybe after studying at George Brown, I will be able to do the molecular gastronomy too. So far, I love my choice to come to Toronto to study culinary and I enjoy day by day cooking and studying the field.