jeudi 29 décembre 2011

Note by Note Cuisine

From Molecular Gastronomy to its applications :
« Molecular Cuisine » (it is over)
and « Note by Note Cuisine» (don't miss this next world culinary trend!)

Hervé This

1. The scientific work

In 1988 Nicholas Kurti and I created the scientific discipline that we called « Molecular gastronomy» (remember that the word « gastronomy » means « knowledge », and not cuisine, even haute cuisine ; in the same way, Molecular Gastronomy does not stand for cooking!).
The aim of Molecular Gastronomy was, is and will be forever : looking for the mechanisms of phenomena occcuring during dish preparation and consumption.

2. An application in the kitchen

In the beginning of the 80's, we introduced also «Molecular Cuisine », whose definition is :
« Producing food (this is cuisine) using « new » tools, ingredients, methods ».

In this definition, the word « new » stands for what was not in kitchens of the western countries in 1980.
For example : siphon (to make foams), sodium alginate (to get pearls with a liquid core, spaghettis of vegetables, etc.) and other gelling agents (agar-agar, carraghenans, etc.), liquid nitrogen (to make sherbets and many other innovative preparations), rotary evaporator, and more generally, the whole set of lab's equipment when they can be useful ; another of new « method », finally, the prepration of the Chocolate Chantilly, of beaumés, gibbs, nollet, vauquelins, etc. ( Cours de gastronomie moléculaire n°1 : Science, technologie, technique (culinaires) : quelles relations ?, Ed Quae/Belin)
Of course all these items are not completely new (many gelling agents are used in Asia for millenia, and many tools are used daily in chemistry labs), but the goal was to modernize the technical component of cuisine.
Yes, the expression « Molecular Cuisine » is poorly chosen, but it had to be introduced at some time... and it is not within the Encyclopedia Britannica Dictionnaly. And Molecular Cuisine will disappear... because of... see below !

3. The next culinary trend : Note by Note Cuisine !

The next proposal is much more exciting, and its name is NOTE BY NOTE CUISINE.
It was first proposed in 1994 (in the magazine Scientific American) at a time when I was playing at using compounds in food, such as paraethylphenol in wines and whiskeys, 1-octen-3-ol in dishes, limonene, tartaric acid, ascorbic acid, etc.
The initial proposal was to improve food... but the next idea was obvious, it is to make dishes entirely from compounds.
Let's say it differently. Note by Note Cuisine is not using meat, fish, vegetable or fruits, but rater compounds, either pure compounds or mixtures, such as electronic music is not using trumpets or violins, but rather pure waves which are mixed in sounds and in music.
Here, for Note by Note Cuisine, the cook has to :  :
design the shapes of the various parts of the dish
design the colors
design the tastes
design the odors
design the temperatures
designe the trigeminal stimulation
design the consistencies
design the nutritional aspects
The feasability of this new cuisine was already shown by many meals :
first Note by Note meal (called Note by Note N°1) shown to the international press in Hong Kong by Pierre Gagnaire in April 2009
two dishes shown at the French-Japanese Scientific Meeting (JSTS) in Strasbourg, in May 2010
whole Note by Note Meal served by the chefs of the Cordon bleu School in Paris in October 2010
Note à Note meal served the 26th of January 2011, as a launching event of the International Year of Chemistry, at UNESCO, Paris, by the team of Potel&Chabot
Note by Note cocktail serve in April 2011 to 500 French chefs freshly starred at Michelin, in Espace Cardin, Paris
Note by Note Meal served in October 2011 by the team of the chefs of the Cordon bleu Schools Paris
Note by Note dishes made by chefs of the Toques Blanches International Association, in Paris, 3 Decembre 2011
Many questions arise from this new cuisine:
land development
1. humankind is facing an energy crisis : it is not sure that traditional cuisine is sustainable (it is not!)
2. the New will always beat the Old
3. cracking products from agriculture and farming is already done for milk and wheat ; why not carrots, apples, etc. ?
4. The objections made to Note by Note cuisine were done half a century ago against electronic music, and guess what you hear at the radio today ?

In other words, are not we at the equivalent of 1947, when musicians such as Varèse and some others were investigating electronic music ?

lundi 26 décembre 2011

I am happy...

... that so many people today think that Molecular Gastronomy is a poor title for a culinary trend... as it is not the name of cuisine, but rather of science !

By the way, many people speak of Molecular Gastronomy, but do they have a scientific activity ?

It suddenly comes to my mind

For many years, the facts were:

1. I remember that, in March 1988, when we created the scientific discipline of Molecular Gastronomy, I proposed this title, and Nicholas replied that we should add "and physical".

2. Since that time, I atributed Nicholas proposal to the fact that he was a physicist, and he feared that too much emphasis would be on chemistry

3. Few years ago, Harold Mc Gee showed evidence that Elizabeth Thomas, a friend of Nicholas and I, proposed also "Molecular Gastronomy" as a title for I don't know what exactly, and apparently Elizabeth and Ugo Valdre (that I don't know) had the idea to make meetings about that

4. It is a fact that Nicholas and I called Antonino Zichichi to propose him a series of Workshops and Erice

5. It is a fact that Nicholas and I were the directors of the workshops, and that we invited Harold Mc Gee to be an invited director to the first meeting (he did not participate to the organization of the others)

In view of all these facts, a sociologist recently wondered why Elizabeth Thomas was not involved in the organization of the International Workshops on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy. It would be logical if Molecular and Physical Gastronomy would be based on her ideas... but remember fact 1: when I proposed the title Molecular Gastronomy, it was because :
1. Gastronomy is a reasoned knowledge, not haute cuisine
2. Molecular was proposed (by me) to do the same as in Molecular Biology, as I explain well in a paper that I published in the Account of Chemical Research.
Moreover, contrary to Nicholas, I did not know Elizabeth Thomas, and this is why she was not a director of our meetings, but only invited, being a friend of Nicholas.

How to reconcile all facts, assuming that people like Harold McGee, Nicholas Kurti and I are honest ?
I had suddenly an assumption: what about Nicholas wanting to do something else than what Elizatbeth Thomas wanted ? Perhaps he knew the proposal of Molecular Gastronomy, and looked for another title, hence "Molecular and Physical Gastronomy".

Later on, I shortened "Molecular and Physical Gastronomy" (the title of my PhD) into "Molecular Gastronomy", because, ignoring all the story about Elizabeth Thomas, I felt is was enough (as I did since the beginning).

Now, historians and sociologists can improve their descriptions... and I ever more strongly regret Nicholas Kurti's death. He was wonderful... and human.