Chef Heston Blumenthal
What is it?
As a subdiscipline of food science, Molecular gastronomy explores the physics and chemistry of ingredients in cooking, especially in the way it transforms and alters. The term was created in the late ’80s by Nicholas Kurti and Hervé This, though many chefs who practice its art expressed preference over other terms such as experimental cuisine, modernist cuisine or multi-sensory cooking.
Though the term exclusively refers to the scientific investigation of cooking, ‘molecular gastronomy’ now also refers to a contemporary style of cuisine, or in the application of cooking. Molecular gastronomy includes studying the ways in which different cooking temperatures affect eggs, from their viscosity to their surface tension, and further explores the many ways in which air can be introduced in it.
Adam Melonas’ ‘Octopop’
Among chefs famously associated with Molecular Gastronomy includes British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, whose culinary crafts include experimenting with food-pairing, where different ingredients identified to share molecular similarities are brought together in an unexpected dish. Some of his unusual creations include white chocolate with caviar, and the fascinating Roast Foie Gras “Benzaldehyde”. Blumenthal has rejected the term “molecular gastronomy” and prefers to identify his avant-garde approach as “multi-sensory cooking” describing eating as”one of the few activities we do that involves all of the senses simultaneously”.
Adam Melonas is another famously experimental chef, whose signature dishes include an edible floral center piece titled “Octopop”. Like its moniker implies, an octopus is cooked in extremely low temperatures, then fused using an enzyme called Transglutaminase. The final unveiling features the concoction suspended on Dill flower stalks after being dipped in an Orange and saffron Carrageenan Gel.
Is Molecular Gastronomy Dead?
Aside from the number of chefs unwilling to be associated with the term, the hype of molecular gastronomy has become rather a thing of the past. French chef Eric Ripert famously deemed it “dead”; likewise, Blumenthal finds the term “complicated” and “elitist”. Indeed, once a notable hype with seemingly fancy tricks, Molecular Gastronomy remains a term that many chefs seem reluctant to use to describe their cooking; after all, of the many ways and techniques in this style of cooking, the term remains an overarching blanket term.
“It was dreamt up in 1992 by a physicist called Nicholas Kurti who needed a fancy name for the science of cooking so he could get a research institute to pay attention to his work,’ explains Blumenthal.