mercredi 18 septembre 2013
This morning, some questions : Hello Mr. Hervé This. It's quite an honor to speak to you. I have researched about your many tremendously fascinating experiments with food. I'm actually writing a career review on the job of a molecular gastronomist. You seem to be the chemist that started it all and spread the creative use of science to make innovative, modern dishes unheard of until recently. I would love for you to spend a little time just to answer a few questions regarding your career and ideas about gastronomy itself. But if you are too busy, I still really appreciate the opportunity to speak to you and your huge contribution to the merge of science and food. 1. Which would you consider yourself, a chef that utilizes molecular gastronomy in their cooking or a chemist that devises new techniques and ideas in the science of food? 2. What are some responsibilities you hold in your career? Things like the regulation of safety of foods, taste, texture, etc,? 3. How many years of experience have you had in this field? And did you receive any formal education for this career? 4. Do you currently only work in AgroParisTech, or hold other positions at restaurants and contribute to their success? This is a new approach to food that is here to stay! There are so many possibilities in food, and I believe you, Sir, have opened another doorway in the culinary world that just comes to show there are no limits we can't break. Thank you so much for your time! I look forward to hearing some great ideas and answers from an experienced individual like you! And here are the answers : Thanks for your email. I fear anyway that you confuse science (molecular gastronomy) and cooking (technique + art). Making food is no "quantitative science". Exploring nature is not producing dishes. No one is over the other, but they are different. In the middle, you have technology, which means using the results of science for improving techniques, and make innovative dishes. And molecular gastronomy is not merging science and food, but more precisely studying the phenomena occuring during cooking... in order to make scientific discoveries (how the world works). But it's true that, at the same time, in a different line of work, I (and some others) wanted to improve technique, to modernize... and this was "molecular cooking" (very different from molecular gastronomy). In order to see clearly the difference, please have a look to my book "Molecular gatronomy", at Columbia University Press. And please do know that a new idea is being now proposed under the name of Note by Note Cooking (see files, and look for the next book at Columbia University Press, being produced those days). Coming to your questions, you will understand clearly why the answer is sometimes difficult to give : 1. Which would you consider yourself, a chef that utilizes molecular gastronomy in their cooking or a chemist that devises new techniques and ideas in the science of food? A : I am not a chef, because I don't cook (I mean, for my job) ! My daily work, and my big passion in life, the job for which I am paid, is physical chemistry, which means in practice solving equations, as you can see in the attached paper. By the way, the expression "the science of food", is not exact, as it is molecular gastronomy, rather. By the way, also, it is because we produce scientific results that these results can be used by technologists, engineers, but also technicians, artists.. and teachers. 2. What are some responsibilities you hold in your career? Things like the regulation of safety of foods, taste, texture, etc,? In my job, I have : - to produce scientific results And this should be all. But being as I am, I feel a "political" responsability of : - teaching - distribute knowledge very broadly - imagine application (molecular cooking, note by note cooking, more detailed ideas) - consider regulation, safety, art - being the president of the Food Section of the Academy of agriculture of France, I have to envision the future of food (remember that there will be 10 billions people in 2050, with energy crisis and water crisis) 3. How many years of experience have you had in this field? And did you receive any formal education for this career? I began with a lab at home when I was 6 years old, and I did scientific activities for all my life (this mean now more than 50 years). All seconds are devoted to science : remember that this is my PASSION. Formal eduction ? Sure ! After my high school (doing science at the same time in the Science Museum of Paris, during week ends), I entered ESPCI ParisTech, which is the best place in France for physical chemistry. And in 1980, I began experimenting culinary precisions (from this physical chemistry point of view). I never stopped, and I shall probably do this until I die (why should I stop, otherwise?) 4. Do you currently only work in AgroParisTech A. As shown on my CV, I have may jobs at the same time. I am physical chemist paid by INRA. My lab is at AgroParisTech, where I am also a teacher, and participating to the organisation of the "Food Innovation and Product Desigh" Master programme (www.fipdes.eu). Also, as I told you, I have to manage the section food at the Academy of agrilcuture. But also I am contributing to the educational programme of the Hautes Etudes du Goût, a programme like a summer programme of Harvard. And I am a scientific advisor of scientific magazines, etc. I should be useful, isn't it ? 5. Do I have position in restaurants ? I am organizing free monthly seminars, so that chefs can improve. But I am also organizing free public courses (2 days per year) for a large audience. Etc. And Pierre Gagnaire is my friend, and we do things together. Plus other particular tasks. Live is wonderful, when you trie to do useful actions ! Celebrate Knowledge (produced, distributed and used).