Food fashions come and go with the decades, but one new style of cooking has persevered and is only getting bigger: molecular gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy is truly fascinating and completely unlike any other style of cooking, but while it might be amazing, it is also prohibitively expensive for the average foodie. Here at Dr. Foodle, we’re going to explore exactly what molecular gastronomy is, where it came from, and talk about some of the amazing dishes being created using this radically new approach to high-end cooking.
The term molecular gastronomy was coined by Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti and the French INRA chemist Herve This during 1988. They noticed a huge disconnect between the culinary and scientific world. New equipment, techniques, and procedures were changing how chemists worked every day, but in the kitchen, people were using the same equipment, methods, and recipes for centuries. They decided to do something about it and incorporated gastronomy, the knowledge of food-based chemical reactions, and they used unconventional equipment that was more at home in a lab than a kitchen and started creating dishes that were completely new. By 1992, Kurti and This held the first International Workshop on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy, where scientists and chefs came together to completely re-envision how they created delicious dishes. Since then, molecular gastronomy has spread all over the world and these bizarre and interesting dishes have been served at high-end restaurants for decades.
Molecular gastronomy uses scientific methods and tools to completely transform food into unusual creations that are full of intense flavors. El Bulli, a 3-star Michelin star restaurant that was located in Roses, Spain, was one of the most forward thinking molecular gastronomy restaurants in recent years. The chef at El Bulli, Ferran Adria, made some truly interesting dishes that were completely unique. There were bright orange, round, translucent beads that looked exactly like caviar, but were actually made from melons. A popular dessert looked like bright pink coral from the bottom of the sea, but was actually made from chocolate and raspberries. They even had a dish that looked like a metallic spring and was served in a jewelry box, but when placed on the tongue, it dissolved into olive oil. The tools to create some of these dishes are very different than what the average chef would be familiar with. Hot infusion siphons, handheld aromatizers, and butane burners replace more conventional culinary tools, and the recipes are more like chemistry instructions than traditional recipes.
These tools are used to create a truly memorable dining experience, but an experience that is out of the price range of the average foodie. Even successful restaurants find it next to impossible to not hemorrhage money to run one of these restaurants, and even with extraordinarily high-prices and packed dining rooms, currently, molecular gastronomy restaurants are not a sound business investment. While getting frozen spheres of cocktails or translucent pasta might be a fun novelty, the price on these dishes needs to come down before the whole world can truly embrace the marvel of molecular gastronomy.