jeudi 22 septembre 2016

Questions and answers

  This morning, interesting questions :

# Dear Mr. This,
# My name is XXXX, and I am from Hungary. I am writing to you because I would like to ask for your help. For from whom could I get more information about molecular gastronomy than the person who invented it?
# I need to write a four-page essay this year for my school, and for my topic I chose molecular gastronomy. I decided to write about this since I really like making and eating food, but I am also a huge admirer of chemistry, and also because in the future I would like to study something similar at University.
# I am aware that you are an extremely busy person but it would mean the World to me if you could answer a few question of mine.
# It was always hard for me to imagine how an idea which is so unique comes to a person’s mind. What interests me a lot is what your purpose was behind your research? Like most studies, was it a coincidence that you created a totally different food making line? If it was, then what was it that you were searching for?
# How much time went by between your first experiment and your first success?
# To be honest I am convinced that making food is some kind of an art, especially if you make it in a way you do. What is your opinion about it? How much of molecular gastronomy is art and how much of it is science?
# A lot of people now have restaurants where we can eat a meal cooked by your methods, using not only cooking skills and equipment but science. Is there anyone who you think represents molecular gastronomy better than the others? Who you think made it to the next step?
# At university I want to study Food Innovation and Health. It is my dream to work for an international company who tries to stop starvation in the poor areas of our world. Do you think we can reform molecular gastronomy to be not only a fancy product but a base for a nutritional plan?
# Sincerely,

# My answer : 

# Thanks for your message. If you are in Hungary, it's good that you know that we created molecular gastronomy together with my late friend Nicholas Kurti, who was educated in Budapest before moving to France, Germany, the US, and finallly England (Oxford). He died in 1998.
# Now, I comment your kind email (sorry, I always comment, often with smiles) :
# You like cooking and eating : why ? (for myself, I have found the real reasons... and I am not so sure that I would say that I  like cooking and eating, indeed)
# A  huge admirer of chemistry: do you me an chemistry as a technique, or rather the science of chemical phenomena, which should be called physical chemistry  or even better chemical physics ?
# What was and what is my goal? Since I am 6 years old, I am fascinated by  the fact that equations can describe the experimental facts so remarkably.
# And the 23rd of March 1980 precisely, I understood thaot cooking was a very old fashioned and traditional practice, for which the  three components of technique, art and social were not distinguished, for which bad advices ("culinary precisions") were transmitted, for which the education was outdated, for which a lot of theory could be done, for which technical improvement (technology) could be proposed, and, moreover, for which a science could be introduced, focusing on the wealth of phenomena occurring during culinary processed.
# This science is molecular gastronomy (in the beginning, it was called "molecular and physical gastronomy", but  this was cumbersome.
# Indeed, at the same time, the proposal of transferring new tools from labs to the kitchens led  to  the development of molecular cooking (new technique), which led itself to a new art called molecular cuisine.
# Please,  be careful not confusing molecular gastronomy with molecular cuisine or with molecular cooking, as all this is different : cooking is no science.
# Like most studies, was it a coincidence that I created a totally different food making line?
# Indeed here the confusion above can be observed. When I began my works, it was because I failed making a particular soufflé, and this led me to the analysisof the failure. Is this coincidence? Probably not. I had a scientific mind, and a failure meant that my "theory" (indeed, here, an absence of theory) was wrong. So  that it was obvious that I should investigate further.
# Later, because I recognized that science could apply to some very old and traditional activities, it was obvious to propose the application of lab's tools to cooking... because this was indeed what I was doing, having at home a lab in my kitchen.
# How much time went by between my first experiment and my first success?  Sorry, but I don't understand the question. My very first experiment was the 23rd of March 1980... but the result was obtained immediately. It was about souffles, and it was immediately followed by a collection of culinary precisions, being tested one by one since.
# Cooking and art: this is discussed extensively in my book "Cooking, a quintessential art". Indeed the title of the French version is "Cooking, it's love, art and technique".  But indeed some culinary activities are simply craft, technique, and others are art. Just like for painting: some paint the walls, and some others do paintings for the mind.
# How much of molecular gastronomy is art and how much of it is science? Here it's clear : there is nothing about art in molecular gastronomy as molecular gastronomy is a scientific activity... but I know that the answer is wrong because the question is wrong: you confused molecular gastronomy and molecular cooking/cuisine. And for cooking/cuisine, it is the same for any kind of cooking: craft and art depending on the particular goal of the particular practioners.
# Is there any restaurant who you think represents molecular gastronomy better than the others? Remember the confusion between molecular gastronomy and molecular cuisine: no restaurant does molecular gastronomy, but many (most of them indeed) do molecular cooking. For molecular cuisine, Ferran Adria was important, but René Redzepi also... but again, molecular cooking is everywhere. And this has no interest... because of the next step: note by note cooking !
# Molecular cuisine is the past, and "note by  note cooking" is THE important think. Aund you will see in my book about it that it is the solution to you lask question. 
# Cheers, celebrate Knowledge !

vendredi 19 août 2016

Cuba, summer 2016

Maria Ester and her colleagues organize the next workshop Molecular Gastronomy, on 13 September, in the Cohiba Hotel.

Have a nice summer

mardi 28 juin 2016

Low temperature cooking of vegetables

Being asked about  "low temperature cooking of vegetable", here is an analysis :

What happens when vegetables are cooked at low temperature?

Indeed for the sake of the discussion, it's good to consider that plant tissues are made of cells, which are soft object, full of water and limited with a fragile membrane. They are cemented with the cell wall, i.e. pectins and celluloses: one can regard cellulose molecules as strong, chemically inert pillars, and pectins as ropes that are entangled around the pillars, so that they keep the cells together.

When the plant tissues are boiled, a chemical process called beta elimination of pectins occur: the pectins "ropes" are cut, piece after piece, so that the pillars can separate, and the cells also. This  is why the plant tissue becomes soft.
# Of course, some others phenomena occur, such as starch gelatinization, above about 80 Celsius degrees.
This can occur in water or outside water, but of course outside water some evaporation occurs as well, which means the formation of a crust. And when the temperature + time is enough, various chemical processes can turn the plant tissue brown, such as hexoses degradation, Maillard reactions (but few), oxidation, pyrolysis, caramelization (remember that plant tissues are full of the three sugars glucose, fructose, sucrose), etc.

Another important piece of information is needed when low temperature cooking is considered: at low temperature, some particular enzymes called pectin methyl esterase are activated, so that the provoke the leaking of calcium from cells... and this makes the plant tissues harder because the calcium ions link to pectins and prevent further pectin disruption. This can be seen by a wonderfully simple experiment of heating first carrot slices in water at 50 °C : the carrots don't change apparently. Then when you  boil the carrots, they don't soften as they would do during boiling.
And this effect occurs frequently during low temperature cooking, with different temperature threshold depending on the particular tissues that you consider. Cooking in "hard" water, with a lot of calcium ions, can also have this effect: in certain waters, lentils don't soften, even after hours of boiling.

If you can find on line the PhD document by my former student Anne Cazor, some more information is given. But the most important is given here.

Finally, I would say that I don't really see the interest of low temperature cooking of vegetables... because the goal of low temperature cooking was limiting the protein coagulation of meats, avoiding them being hard, and the slow dissolution of collagenic tissue, so that hard meat can be transformed into tender meat. For plant tissue, the issue is often to make them soft when they are hard, and there is no harmful effect of high temperature, only the process is accelerated.
Only for particular processes low temperature is helpful, for example when you  want to make non soft gherkins, for pickles, for example. Or when too  soft plant tissues have to keep some hardness (some varieties of potatoes, for example), etc.

samedi 11 juin 2016

The results of the 4th International Contest for Note by Note Cooking


International Contest

 for Note by Note Cooking

Paris, June 10, 2016

Topic: cellulose, cellulose derivatives and compounds with trigeminal effects.

The 10th of June 2016, at AgroParisTech, candidates from more than 20 countries showed their works to a jury including :
● Thierry Mechinaud, Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire, Paris, France
● Patrick Terrien, ex chef of the chefs of the Cordon bleu School
● Sandrine Kault, Louis François Company
● Yolanda Rigault, organizer of the contest
● Hervé This, AgroParisTech-Inra International Centre for Molecular Gastronomy

Prizes were given in three categories

Category Chefs :

First Prize:
Guillaume Siegler, chef of the Cordon Bleu Tokyo, Japon

Second Prize
Emmanuel Roux-Var, Manager, chef, teacher for sous vide ccooking, Ecole Pralus, France.

Category Amateurs :

First Prize
Eric Olivier Lermusiaux, France

Category Students:

First Prize ex aequo :
Michael Pontif, Chimie ParisTech, France
Sophie Dalton, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland

Second Prize
Etienne Laborie, Chimie ParisTech, France

Third Prize :
Rohit, Student of the Master Erasmus Mundus Food Innovation and Product Design, India
Alice Payrault, ISIPCA, France

The recipes (with picctures) will be show day after day on the internet site

Thanks to our partners
Mane SA Louis François

jeudi 3 mars 2016

Other Q&A

This morning, some questions. Here are my answers, with comments :

In an answer to a question on your website about DSFs, you mention that dimension "does not mean size, but the number of parameters that you need to describe a system." You give mayonnaise as an example: D0(O)/D3(W). Why does the oil occupy 0 dimensions as opposed to the liquid water phase that occupies 3? What are the parameters pertaining to a given phase?

Here, I have to explain, in order to avoid my friends going first on other pages, looking for explanations on DSF.
DSF stands for "disperse systems formalism", i.e. a kind of algebra that  can be used in order to describe the physical organization of colloids, that is systems such as foams, gels, emulsions, suspensions...
In this formalism, one describes objects by their "physical dimension", and the nature of the "phases" (gaz, liquid, solid...), including the relationship between the constituants.
The  dimension is indeed the traditional mathematical object. A dot has dimension zero, a line  dimension one, a surface dimension two, a volume a dimension 3, and there  can be non integer dimensions, such as for fractals.
In a mayonnaise : the sauce itself is certainly 3 dimensional. The continuous phase is water (W), which  means that the  sauce formula begins with D3(W°. Now, if you look at it, you see that there are oil droplets are dispersed in the water phase. But the oil droplets are "physically" of dimension 0, because they are more than one order of magnitude smaller than the reference size, i.e. the  radius of the  sauce. And these droplets D0(O) are randomly dispersed in the water  sauce, hence the formula.

Given a random dispersion system formula, how would you go about interpreting that into a physical manifestation (a dish)? How do you interpret each operation––specifically inclusion, superstition, and intermixing?

I don't understand the question. Can you explain what  you mean ?

As a study of the science regarding cuisine, what distinguishes the molecular gastronomy from the scientific field of food science?

This is very clear, and there are obviously historical reasons. If you look to any Food Science textbook, such as the Food Chemistry (Springer), you will never see "real food", such as coq of vin, poisson braisé, etc. The only topics being discussed are food ingredients, or food processes of the industry. See this explained in more details in my article of the Accounts of chemical research.

Did the Futurist Ideology regarding future food consumption (as Marinetti predicted in the Cucina Futurista) inspire your concept of Note-by-Note cooking in anyway? How did your work in the fields of food science and molecular gastronomy influence this idea?

No. I don't have time for this. The idea of note by note cooking is explained in my book on the topic.
By the way, in  some posts of my blogs you will see that  there could be more, such as injecting sensations into the brain, without eating physically. This is very exciting, but I shall not work on it.
And I don't understand clearly the second question here.

In many of your lecture demonstrations, you use flavor compounds in powder form. What are the processes of extracting flavor or odor molecules from ingredients––like basil, or olive oil for example? Are there any methods that can be used at home with basic supplies?

Compounds responsible for  taste or odor, or trigeminal can be solid or liquid (for gases, the amount of material is too small).
The process of extracting? It depends on the particular compounds. Some can be recovered by distillation, other by membrane filtration, etc.
At home ? Who would you mind extracting at home, as you don't do  it for sugar or salt ? Of course, you can if you have the equipment, but supercritical CO2 is expansive. Rotary evaporators are now in some kitchens.

Seeing that you have greatly impacted the development of molecular gastronomy/cuisine/Note-by-Note cooking, why don’t you consider yourself a chef?

Why  I don't consider myself a  chef ? Because a chef cooks professionnally. If I would open a restaurant, I am quite sure that I would do well, but I also know that I am a dwarf, artistically, compared to my friend Pierre Gagnaire. I am no artist, even if my technique is probably  better than the technique of all chefs (remember one invention per  month for more than 15 years, and I can make 40 liters of whipped egg white from one egg). I cook daily for my family since I am  6 BUT I am not interested in all this.
My life is physical chemistry, equations, science, enlarging the realm of knowledge, of scientific knowledge. For me, technique  and technology (even my own inventions) are nil ! My only proudness are some scientific results that I was able to get. My job, for which I am paid, is  physical chemistry... and now that I answered, I am coming back VERY FAST to my equations and calculations. 

mercredi 17 février 2016

Maria Esther Abreu, in Cuba, was honored for what she is doing with chefs : seminars on molecular gastronomy.