Molecular gastronomy

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					Molecular gastronomy is a subdiscipline of food science that seeks to investigate, explain
and make practical use of the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that
occur while cooking, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary
and gastronomic phenomena in general.[4] Molecular gastronomy is a modern style of
cooking, which is practiced by both scientists and food professionals in many
professional kitchens and labs and takes advantage of many technical innovations from
the scientific disciplines.

The term "molecular gastronomy" was coined in 1988 by late Oxford physicist Nicholas
Kurti and the French INRA chemist Hervé This.[5] Some chefs associated with the term
choose to reject its use,[6] preferring other terms such as "culinary physics" and
"experimental cuisine".


Internationally renowned French chemist and cook Hervé This is "The Father of
Molecular Gastronomy"[5]

Heston Blumenthal dislikes the term Molecular gastronomy, believing it makes the
practice sound "complicated" and "elitist."[7]

There are many branches of food science, all of which study different aspects of food
such as safety, microbiology, preservation, chemistry, engineering, physics and the like.
Until the advent of molecular gastronomy, there was no formal scientific discipline
dedicated to studying the processes in regular cooking as done in the home or in a
restaurant. The aforementioned have mostly been concerned with industrial food
production and while the disciplines may overlap with each other to varying degrees, they
are considered separate areas of investigation.

Though many disparate examples of the scientific investigation of cooking exist
throughout history, the creation of the discipline of molecular gastronomy was intended
to bring together what had previously been fragmented and isolated investigation into the
chemical and physical processes of cooking into an organized discipline within food
science to address what the other disciplines within food science either do not cover, or
cover in a manner intended for scientists rather than cooks. These mere investigations
into the scientific process of cooking have unintentionally evolved into a revolutionary
epicurean practice that is now prominent in today's culinary world.

The term "Molecular and Physical Gastronomy" was coined in 1992 by Hungarian
physicist Nicholas Kurti and French physical chemist Hervé This. It became the title for a
set of workshops held in Erice, Italy (originally titled "Science and Gastronomy")[8] that
brought together scientists and professional cooks for discussions on the science behind
traditional cooking preparations. Eventually, the shortened term "Molecular Gastronomy"
also became the name of the scientific discipline co-created by Kurti and This to be based
on exploring the science behind traditional cooking methods.[8][9][10]
Kurti and This had been the co-directors of the "Molecular and Physical Gastronomy"
meetings in Erice, along with the American food science writer Harold McGee,[8] and
had considered the creation of a formal discipline around the subjects discussed in the
meetings.[10] After Kurti's death in 1998, the name of the Erice workshops was also
changed by This to "The International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy 'N. Kurti'".
This remained the sole director of the subsequent workshops from 1999 through 2004
and continues his research in the field of Molecular Gastronomy today.

University of Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti was an enthusiastic advocate of applying
scientific knowledge to culinary problems. He was one of the first television cooks in the
UK, hosting a black and white television show in 1969 entitled "The Physicist in the
Kitchen" where he demonstrated techniques such as using a syringe to inject hot mince
pies with brandy in order to avoid disturbing the crust.[11] That same year, he held a
presentation for the Royal Society of London (also entitled "The Physicist in the
Kitchen") in which he is often quoted to have stated:[12]
I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the
temperature in the atmosphere of Venus we do not know what goes on inside our
—Nicholas Kurti

During the presentation Kurti demonstrated making meringue in a vacuum chamber, the
cooking of sausages by connecting them across a car battery, the digestion of protein by
fresh pineapple juice, and a reverse baked alaska - hot inside, cold outside - cooked in a
microwave oven.[12][13] Kurti was also an advocate of low temperature cooking,
repeating 18th century experiments by the English scientist Benjamin Thompson by
leaving a 2 kg lamb joint in an oven at 80 °C (176 °F). After 8.5 hours, both the inside
and outside temperature of the lamb joint were around 75 °C (167 °F), and the meat was
tender and juicy.[12] Together with his wife, Giana Kurti, Nicholas Kurti edited an
anthology on food and science by fellows and foreign members of the Royal Society.

Hervé This started collecting "culinary precisions" (old kitchen wives' tales and cooking
tricks) in the early 1980s and started testing these precisions to see which ones held up;
his collection now numbers some 25,000. He also has received a PhD in Physical
Chemistry of Materials for which he wrote his thesis on molecular and physical
gastronomy, served as an adviser to the French minister of education, lectured
internationally, and was invited to join the lab of Nobel Prize winning molecular chemist
Jean-Marie Lehn.[14][15] This has published several books in French, four of which have
been translated into English, including Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of
Flavor, Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking, Cooking: The
Quintessential Art, and Building a Meal: From Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary
Constructivism. He currently publishes a series of essays in French and hosts free
monthly seminars on molecular gastronomy at the INRA in France. He gives free and
public seminars on molecular gastronomy any month, and once a year, he gives a public
and free course on molecular gastronomy. Hervé also authors a website and a pair of
blogs on the subject in French and publishes monthly collaborations with French chef
Pierre Gagnaire on Gagnaire's website.[16][17][18]
Though she is rarely credited, the origins of the Erice workshops (originally entitled
"Science and Gastronomy") can be traced back to the cooking teacher Elizabeth Cawdry
Thomas who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in London and ran a cooking school in Berkeley,
CA. The one-time wife of a physicist, Thomas had many friends in the scientific
community and an interest in the science of cooking. In 1988 while attending a meeting
at the Ettore Majorana Center for Scientific Culture in Erice, Thomas had a conversation
with Professor Ugo Valdrè of the University of Bologna who agreed with her that the
science of cooking was an undervalued subject and encouraged her to organize a
workshop at the Ettore Majorana Center. Thomas eventually approached the director of
the Ettore Majorana center, physicist Antonino Zichichi who liked the idea. Thomas and
Valdrè approached Kurti to be the director of the workshop. By Kurti's invitation, noted
food science writer Harold McGee and French Physical Chemist Hervé This became the
co-organizers of the workshops, though McGee stepped down after the first meeting in

Up until 2001, The International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy "N. Kurti"
(IWMG) was named the "International Workshops of Molecular and Physical
Gastronomy" (IWMPG). The first meeting was held in 1992 and the meetings have
continued every few years thereafter until the most recent in 2004. Each meeting
encompassed an overall theme broken down into multiple sessions over the course of a
few days.[19]

The focus of the workshops each year were as follows:[13][20]
1992 - First Meeting
1995 - Sauces, or dishes made from them
1997 - Heat in cooking
1999 - Food flavors - how to get them, how to distribute them, how to keep them
2001 - Textures of Food: How to create them?
2004 - Interactions of food and liquids

Examples of sessions within these meetings have included:[13][21]
Chemical Reactions in Cooking
Heat Conduction, Convection and Transfer
Physical aspects of food/liquid interaction
When liquid meets food at low temperature
Solubility problems, dispersion, texture/flavour relationship
Stability of flavour

The objectives of molecular gastronomy, as defined by Hervé This are:

Current objectives:

Looking for the mechanisms of culinary transformations and processes (from a chemical
and physical point of view) in three areas:[9][29]
the social phenomena linked to culinary activity
the artistic component of culinary activity
the technical component of culinary activity

Original objectives:

The original fundamental objectives of molecular gastronomy were defined by This in his
doctoral dissertation as:[29]
Investigating culinary and gastronomical proverbs, sayings, and old wives' tales
Exploring existing recipes
Introducing new tools, ingredients and methods into the kitchen
Inventing new dishes
Using molecular gastronomy to help the general public understand the contribution of
science to society

However, This later recognized points 3, 4 and 5 as being not entirely scientific
endeavours (more application of technology and educational), and has since revised the
primary objectives of molecular gastronomy.[4]

Adam Melonas's signature preparations is an edible floral center piece named the
"Octopop": a very low temperature cooked octopus fused using transglutaminase, dipped
into an orange and saffron carrageenan gel and suspended on dill flower stalks

Example areas of investigation:[30]
How ingredients are changed by different cooking methods
How all the senses play their own roles in our appreciation of food
The mechanisms of aroma release and the perception of taste and flavor
How and why we evolved our particular taste and flavor sense organs and our general
food likes and dislikes
How cooking methods affect the eventual flavor and texture of food ingredients
How new cooking methods might produce improved results of texture and flavor
How our brains interpret the signals from all our senses to tell us the "flavor" of food
How our enjoyment of food is affected by other influences, our environment, our mood,
how it is presented, who prepares it, etc.

Example myths debunked or explained:[14][31]
You need to add salt to water when cooking green veget

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