jeudi 7 octobre 2010


This morning, I received an email from an interesting guy writing among smart ideas ;:

"thankfully (!!!) I’m at the final stage of my Ph.D studies"

Poor correspondent!!!!! Indeed, he should be sad, because this is probably the best part of his life!

Remember that one is happy when each step is pleasant ; if you think that you are sad not being at the final destination of your trip, you are sad most of the time. But if you think that each step is fun, then you have fun all the time... Plus the bonus of reaching the final destination in the end.

mercredi 15 septembre 2010

For the sixth time

Dear Friends,
I am happy to announce the Sixth Contest Science, Art and Cooking :

Let's use oses

We all know the taste of sucrose, but what about maltose, isomalt, glucose, fructose, rebaudioside A, extracted from stevia?

The participants will:
-create a dish of their choice for which a jury will appreciate the various sweet tastes (yes, there are many sweet tastes)
- use the density of oses for creating cocktails with layers, and no alcohol.

This contest is open to all: students of culinary schools or scientific institutions, experts, etc.
It's free. For application (latest date 30 September 2010) or for information, please contact

Odile Renaudin
Directrice des Rencontres Sciences, Art & Cuisine

dimanche 12 septembre 2010

Again, sorry

Sorry indeed because my new book on "culinary precisions" is now published, but not in English, only in French.

This is made from my collections on culinary tips, sayings, old wives tales, methodes... The 25,000 items were ordered and theorized for the 2009 Course on Molecular Gastronomy.

Perhaps an American publisher will find it useful to translate the document?

mardi 24 août 2010

Interview by a Brasilian magazine

Dear Friends,
Below, the answers to questions asked by a Brasilian magazine. Please, do not hesitate to discuss my answers.

1.       What has motivated you to become a molecular gastronomy researcher?
Indeed, since I was 6 years old, I wanted to be a chemist. With passion, I was doing chemistry and physics in my home, having slowly created there a wonderful lab that I still have.
At that time, I also cooked, and it is not surprising that the two activities mixed, even if I would like today to contribute also to some research on the chemistry of natural products, as I feel that this field is very important both scientifically and technologically.
The 16th of March 1980, I became involved in what would be called later (in 1988) Molecular Gastronomy because of a cheese soufflé : the recipes advised to add the yolks two by two... and the tests showed that it had no influence. But the 23rd of March 1980, I decided to collect the French "culinary precisions" (i.e. culinary old wive tales, proverbs, tips, methods, proverbs...). I now have more than 25 000, only for French cuisine!

2.       How has the gastronomy molecular study contributed to the future?
Since the formal creation of Molecular Gastronomy, in 1988, we set up a frame for future research, and identified a special field that was regularly forgotten, i.e. the physical and chemical investigation of the mechanisms of phenomena occuring during cooking. As a branch of science, Molecular Gastronomy will have no end, because the scientific process goes in more and more details.
But Molecular Gastronomy is also important both from a technological point of view, and from an educational point of view.
Technologically, it was very important that we proposed the use in the kitchen of new hardware, new tools, new ingredients and new methods : this is Molecular Cooking (also sometimes called Molecular Cooking, or Molecular Cookery, now also Technoemotional cuisine).
This is a first step. Now, I am trying to introduce "culinary constructivism", and Note by Note cooking.
Educationnally, we introduced new reasoned activities in school, colleges and universities. Molecular Gastronomy courses are important because they are appealing for students of all ages. They understand the usefulness of science, and better perceived the relationship between science, technology, technique, art.

3.       The scientific study on the procedures used in the kitchen demystify cooking itself, putting down the concept which consists in the belief that some people have the ability to cook and others don´t?
 Yes, this is an important act of faith to recognize that one can make better technical work understanding what one do ! In the 80's, when we began our work, there was secrecy in culinary circles... but indeed there is no such thing for science. We investigate what is hidden, and distribute the information as much as possible.
Indeed, among culinary precisions, many are strange, and this leads to a new study of why our ancestors transmitted wrong information. This needs sociology, history, anthropology... but this study is very exciting. This was the topic of the Course on Molecular Gastronomy 2010, in January 2010 (a book is published next week from the Course).
And also, when you recognize that cooking is (1) creating a social link (between the cook and the guests, but also between the guests), (2) involving art ("good" means "beautiful to eat", as explained extensively in my book Cooking, a quintessenciaal art), (3) technique, you understand that you need to learn the three components to be successful in the kitchen. I hate the aphorism by Brillat-Savarin saying that you can become a cook, but you need to be born as a "rotisseur" (roaster) : my idea is that everybody can learn... as long as she or he learns and work hard!

4.       In molecular gastronomy, does the kitchen´s main character continue to be the chef or, now, is the chemical-physician (who commands the process), or the success will depend on their team work? How does this partnership between chefs and scientists work?
 This question shows that you make a confusion between Molecular Gastronomy (science) and Molecular Cooking (cooking).
Molecular Gastronomy is achieved only in laboratories, only by scientists. On the other hand, Molecular Cooking is achieved only in kitchen, and only by chefs ! Remember that you need art for Cooking, and in particular for Molecular Cooking.

Indeed, the introduction of Molecular Cooking creating a new position, of "culinary technologists", or "culinary engineers", i.e. people that can understand the fresh results of science in order to make technology transfers, so that they can help chefs (artists) to put this knowledge in action in their kitchen.
In this regard, there is no relationship between science and art, between molecular gastronomy and chefs. One need an intermediate. Even in my "play" with my intimate friend Pierre Gagnaire, when I am proposing a new idea (there is one invention per month for now ten years), I am not working as a scientist, but rather as a technologists. Of course, being a scientist, I should not do that, but I feel that it is important, at this point of time, how important the results of science can be. And also, I do it for Pierre!

5.       How you define the joint between gastronomy and science?
 Contrary to a wrong idea, gastonomy is not cooking! And in particular, it is not high cuisine.
Gastronomy is defined as the reasoned knowledge of man's nourishment. It is a knowledge!
In this regard, expressions such as "gastronomic restaurants" are mistakes.
Within the area of gastronomy (knowledge), you find history (historical gastronomy), sociology (sociological gastronomy), litterature (gastronomical litterature)... and science : Molecular Gastronomy.

6.       What are the best chefs and restaurants in molecular gastronomy segment?
 I hate the idea of "best". Take a comparison with music. Even if some days I am preferring Bach to Mozart, some other days I prefer Mozart, or Debussy. Indeed, preferences are not transitive : you have the right to prefer raspberries to strawberries, strawberries to blackcurrants, but blackcurrant to raspberries: finally, you cannot say which one you prefer.
Then, what would be the criteria of "best" ? Indeed I say very firmly that the ranking done by the English magazine Restaurants is an awful thing, from all point of views. And this year ranking is worst than other years.
I prefer telling you that there are some very interesting people in the world, doing (not molecular gastronomy) molecular cooking, such as my friend Pierre Gagnaire, but also many others : you know their names, Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal, Denis Martin, René Redzepi, Alex Atala, Sang-Hoon Degeimbre...
On my internet site, I wrote :
"As I hate ranking, because it is unfair and intellectually silly, I make here a proposal, with invitation for you to contribute.

1. ranking is silly as art is concerned, as one can only say "I love", or "I don't like".
2. ranking is silly, as 2+2=4 is not a question of democracy
3. ranking is silly as choices can be "intransitive" : you can prefer raspberries to strawberries, strawberries to blackcurrant, and blackcurrant to raspberries
4. and so many other reasons that can be very surprised to see that smart people do it!

This is why, as restaurants are concerned, I propose to make a simple list (with names of people voting for it, so that it's clear). Note that I was in more places than that, but that I give only the name of good places

I begin :

Pierre Gagnaire : he is my friend, first, so that you cannot trust me, but you can trust me when I say that he a real great artist.

Pascal Barbot : wonderful, modest, many ideas, always using a condiment, but not restricted to it

Michel Bras : I like this guy, and this artistic precision; I was not there recently, alas

Paul Bocuse : I was there many years ago, so that I cannot say anything

François Pasteau, l'Epi Dupin : always very interesting, so cheap... that it is always full. Make your reservation well in advance.

Alex Atala : a wonderful guy, with a lot of  sensibility

Grant Achatz : a lot to say, very interesting... and this pushes me to go in another direction for describing meals, ie. giving more details, as this list above is clearly useless

More to come.
And will you contribute? Please leave your comments.

7.       In your work, you bring the molecular gastronomy to the real world, making the reader feel comfortable and capable to understand it. Why do you treat the subject that way, while some of the chefs treat it like if it were something inaccessible, depriving others of this knowledge?
 I am sorry to be still at the Century of Enlightment. I feel that the work of philosophers like Voltaire, Diderot, and others is not fishished, and I want (yes, this is naively utopic) a better world for my children. Science, in particular, and Knowledge in general, are wonderful because they are our better chance against intolerance. Sharing knowledge is a way to promote friendship, collaboration, advancement, ideas, pleasure, peace...
When people work together, they don't fight. When people love their wonderful job, they are happy.
And, moreover, we have in view some Great Men and Women of the past, whose trail has to be followed. Think of wonderful individuals such as Lavoisier, father of modern chemistry, Louis Pasteur, Michael Faraday, Denis Diderot, and so many others !
In the end, about clarity, I made to myself a "law" to follow the idea from the physicist François Arago : "La clarté est la politesse de ceux qui s''expriment en public" (Clarity is the politeness of all those who speak in front of an audience). I don't care that my audience is considering me as smart, or knowledgeable; I want to give them the results of scientific studies.

8.        Do you think the Universities should include the molecular gastronomy (and, therefore, the kitchen´s chemical-physical principles) in the chef´s  academic?
 Yes, thousand time yes! And this is currently under development in many countries of the world.
In France and in Canada, the culinary curriculum changed some years ago.
But this move is not only for chefs, but also for students of science!

9.       Does the introduction to the chemical-physical studies, at the Universities, mean an evolution to the gastronomy studies?
 I don't know. Wait (actively) and see. But I am pushing in this direction very strongly.

10.    How is a chef recognized when he/she knows the molecular gastronomy principles? Can these principles be applied according to the regional characteristics of each gastronomy or should it be reserved to the vanguard gastronomy?
 This question is difficult. Some chefs, as Pierre Gagnaire, are very modern, at the cutting edge of Molecular Gastronomy knowledge, but they don't "show" molecular cuisine skills. Pierre, in particular, is an artist, and he is doing Pierre's cuisine. The results of science and technology are only tools for him. There will never be any smokes, or explosions, etc. in his restaurants; rather he wants the guest to share an idea of Beauty (this is my own interpretation, of course).
For others, the appearance of modernity is more important. There are many different cases.
But remember that Molecular Cooking means using modern techniques only. Then you can make a molecular cassoulet, for example, without the guests seeing any difference !
Indeed, some inventions of mine that I like are those that anybody can do very cheaply at home, such as the Chocolat Chantilly, the Kientzheim Sauce, or the Egg at 67°C, the Wind Crystals, etc. Even children can make them, and they don't ask for any particular hardware or ingredient.

11.    What do you have to say to the news chefs that are starting their studies in molecular gastronomy?
 Never hesitate to ask questions. Try, work, have fun, and don't forget that the main point of cooking is giving pleasure to your guests ! Yes, cooking, it's love, art and technique.

jeudi 22 juillet 2010

Note by Note Cooking

For some days, I am receiving friendly emails about Note By Note Cooking (Cookery?), but one that I had this morning is particularly interesting. It is:

Anyway, when one read what you say about NbN Cooking with such simplicity, one asks why cooks did not begin earlier... Indeed, the creation of new taste and odors from simple compounds goes hand by hand with the creation of new texture... which is very fashionable with Molecular Gastronomy.

Indeed there is a slight confusion in the end, about Molecular Cooking, and Molecular Gastronomy. Molecular Cooking is cooking whereas Molecular Gastronomy is science. But the beginning is important.

I answered :
Why were cooks so slow to investigate Note by note cooking?
1. because it is not so easy to escape tradition, which is often considered (lazzily) as a maximum of what can be done in the kitchen
2. because there is a lot of work to be done in order to learn to compose odors, tastes, consistencies
3. because the practice is different of traditional cooking that chefs learned to do at school;
4. because compounds are used, and too frequently, one would say"chemicals", even if water, sugar, salt are not chemicals but compounds.

Indeed the last reason seems to me the most important, and I did a whole book about it (La Sagesse du chimiste). At times when the public wants some "naturals" (a comfortable and silly value!), using compounds seems provocative! However, one should observe that salt and sugar, which have the same intellectual status, show no difficulties.

Finally, as often when a breakthrough, there is some evidence... and resistances... Last year, certain conservative media reacted against Molecular Cooking.. but I am awaiting worse with Note by Note cooking. I take the bet tahtI will be assused of being "sold" to the industry, and the chemical industry for example

But let them bark... and let's work!