A few – now famous – chefs started playing with food – experimenting with ingredients to see how different cooking methods changed the appearance of them. A modernist’s goal can be concluded to keep the surprise factor in good food.
For me there always was the differentiation between cooking and baking: cooking comes from the heart and baking comes from science. That is how it has been for thousands of years. And now there is the science of molecular cooking: science combined with the heart.
Some chefs associated with the term choose to reject its use, preferring other terms such as multi sensory cooking, culinary physics, experimental cuisine and my favorite: modernist cuisine. Ferran Adrià of El Bulli (Spain), prefers the term ‘deconstructivist’ to describe his style of cooking.
Ferran Adrià is considered one of the best chefs in the world. Examples of his unusual dishes that have been criticized include frozen whisky sour candy, white garlic and almond sorbet, tobacco-flavored blackberry crushed ice and Kellogg’s paella (Rice Krispies, shrimp heads and vanilla-flavored mashed potatoes).
Ferran said he has “turned eating into an experience that supersedes eating.
For me there still are two different kinds of chef of the world. The other chefs of the world do not excel in presentation or the usage of molecules. They serve their food à la française or family-style. No special decorations except for a plush of curled parsley, a few sprigs of rosemary or chives. Those dishes burst from local grown fresh ingredients. Read all about their dishes in ‘Cuisine de Paysan’.
I agree chefs like Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal do exceptional things with food. The food they create looks more than amazing, the thought behind it extraordinary, the creativity incomparable. Surrounded by an army of young, devoted chefs in training, they experiment and do all kind of wild flavor and texture combinations.
Other chefs associated with this cooking method include Grant Achatz, José Andrés, Sat Bains, Richard Blais, and Kevin Sousa, just to name a few.
In February 2011, Nathan Myhrvold published the Modernist Cuisine, which led many chefs to further classify molecular gastronomy versus modernist cuisine. Myhrvold believes that his cooking style should not be called molecular gastronomy.
Looking for the mechanisms of culinary transformations and processes (from a chemical and physical point of view) in three areas of culinary movement:
1. The social aspects
2. The artistic elements
3. The technical components
Presentation is one of the main point what makes using molecular methods special. Playing with the senses of our body: nose, eyes, ears, touch, taste
Nose – the sense of smell is a tool to attract an individual’s attention. Smells are usually associated with upbringing, emotion, learning and even culture. This sense creates memories that go a long way back: for example the memory of smelling grandma’s apple pie or fresh baked cookies even before eating them brings a smile on your face.
Eyes – The sense of sight is the most focused on sense by marketers. Different colors effect the senses different: red and orange reflect to warmth, blue and green have a cooling effect on the senses. The sense of sight is also stimulated by different shapes, which goes back to the time we were playing with various shapes (square, cylinder, arch, triangle, etc.) in different colors. These toys encouraged interaction, imagination and creativity.
Ears – The sense of hearing is a powerful sense. The ears are capable of picking up all sorts of information and can contribute to people’s feelings.
Touch – The sense of touch encourage people to interact with the product.
Taste – The sense of taste is the sensation produced when a substance in the mouth reacts chemically with taste receptor cells located on taste buds in the mouth, mostly on the tongue. The sensation of taste includes five established basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami (pleasant savory taste from Japanese umai “delicious” and mi “taste”). This sense stimulates mechanisms of aroma release and the perception of taste and flavor.
Modernist cuisine encouraged interaction, imagination and creativity and creates an opportunity to experience sensations that ‘normal’ gastronomy lacks.
Experiences with gravity, balance, and geometry learned from our toy blocks also provide intellectual stimulation, and in the modernist cuisine it allows or maybe better says gives the consumer an experience that differs from ‘eating a meal’.
However any chef calls his cuisine, the goal is the same – being different and – set tradition aside and create dishes that tickle, sparkle, explode, amuse, surprise.
Imagine a dish looking like a main coarse but being dessert with orb shape topped with orange foam that dissolves on your tongue and leaves behind a velvet texture flavored with Cointreau, or caviar on top of your brownie, which turns out to be a -in your mouth melting – chocolate mousse with small balls that look like caviar but are made of raspberry puree or juice.
So, in short, modernist cuisine is a great way to present food with unlimited possibilities in shape, color, texture, flavor and surprises.
This cuisine method introduces new tools, ingredients and methods into the kitchen:
Carbon dioxide source, for adding bubbles and making foams
• Foams can also be made with an immersion blender
• Liquid nitrogen, for flash freezing and shattering
• Sous-vide (low temperature cooking)
• Maltodextrin – can turn a high-fat liquid into a powder
• Lecithin – an emulsifier and non-stick agent
• Hydrocolloids such as starch, gelatin, pectin and natural gums – used as thickening agents, gelling agents, emulsifying agents and stabilizers, sometimes needed for foams
• Spherification – a caviar-like effect
• Syringe, for injecting unexpected fillings
• Edible paper made from soybeans and potato starch, for use with edible fruit inks and an inkjet printer
• Presentation style is often whimsical or avant-garde, and may include unusual service ware
• Unusual flavor combinations (food pairings) are favored, such as combining savory and sweet.
by chef Yvonne van Uffelen Stephens