First of all, I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t like the texture of Frozen Olive Oil.
Secondly- argue with me until you are blue in the face, but I CAN taste the Alginate Gelling Agent in those spheres of yours.
And last, and most importantly-
Why, in the name of Batman’s Mother, does every photo, without exception, of every chef wreathed in clouds of liquid-nitrogen smoke, or holding aloft some sphere of emulsified organic free-range wombat milk “espuma” or whatever the hell it is like it’s the Holy Grail, have a pompous, smug, and utterly condescending look on his face like he has just looked down from the heavens and decreed:
“Let There Be Foam!” ??
Yeah..yeah.. I can hear you guys already, fingers poised over your “delete” and “unlike” buttons, muttering indignantly that I am insane, ignorant, arrogant, not “With The Times”, jealous that I didn’t think of it first, clueless, and other derogatory adjectives,
And you know what?
Those of you who know me, know that not only am I not afraid of a little controversy, I actively, and relentlessly, seek it out!!
So gather ’round, people, and allow me to explain in a bit more detail,
Why I Hate Molecular Cuisine:
In The Beginning, there was Ferran Adria.
An egocentric, yet spectacularly talented food scientist, chef,
and performance artist.
He created new textures, tastes, and the technology to make his
outlandish dreams into reality.
And It Was Good.
Then, into this pastoral garden of Eden, came the first sign
of trouble in paradise:
All around the world, restaurants started sporting menu items like
“gelled olive oil” “seawater sorbet” , and “calamari foam”.
And It Was Not Good.
Then came the second wave, which consisted of every snot-nosed stagiere
with 5 minutes kitchen experience and the best Culinary School Diploma their
parents’ money could buy, idolizing Ferran as if he was Farrah Fawcett in 1975. Some of those guys probably have posters of the guy hanging in their bedrooms, with suspicious sticky substances clinging to the edges.
And by “sticky stuff”, I don’t mean a spilled mocha frappuccino.
Needless to say, these prepubescent poseurs decided that what better way to Impress the Ladies (or trend slaves, tv producers, food critics, or bored and jaded clients) than busting out every single technique in good old Adria’s formidable Bag of Tricks, on every single dish on every single menu.
The cool little professional’s tricks which should have been used as accents, or highlights, once in a while, not constantly until they became nothing but a cliche, became their own worst enemy.
This is when I started really developing a serious problem with this stuff.
Here is a video of some chubby little twat demonstrating how to make
“Salt Cod Espuma, using an iSi ThermoWhip”.
It sounds like something from a bad S&M club. Enjoy:
And what really put the last nail in the coffin for me, finally, was that an entire worldwide marketing campaign took hold, with endless tv shows, gadgets, kits, products, machines, and instructors to teach every chef, not to mention every coffee-house cowboy and bored housewife, why their life was meaningless unless they owned a Sousvide, a ThermoMix, or a Texturas kit!
And right about this time, mes chers amis, is when the wily and intelligent Adria decided to close his eponymous “El Bulli”, and head off with his bags of money, insanely lucrative product lines, reputation, and self-respect intact, into the sunset-
Leaving chefs around the world still churning out soulless and exact replicas of his once-innovative creations with the all monotony of McDonalds churning out McNuggets.
No longer is there any “Wow” factor.
Gone are the gasps of wonder and surprise when a waiter brings your dessert and there sits a pearlized sphere filled with foam, shining like some jewel in God’s Own Treasure Chest.
The big client your firm is trying to land won’t be impressed when you take him to a top-flight expense-account dinner and the waiter tells him
his foie gras en sous vide will be served with rosewater caviar pearls.
He’s seen it before.
Sorry, guys, every housewife in Omaha and their kids too, has seen all this stuff now, and probably also watched 10 TV shows about how to make it themselves.
As a matter of fact, here’s a link to a Flickr photo album by some mom and her ankle-biters making some foam, alginate gel spheres and some other stuff. Enjoy:
Yep, this guy Ferran Adria is a genius, no question about it:
He invented a whole new type of cooking style, complete with all the equipment necessary and ingredients to create these magical concoctions, which of course cannot be made without purchasing said equipment and ingredients, plus books, tutorials, courses, etc, and then he proceeded to ride the wave of hype, overexposure, and mythology all the way to the bank like Laird Hamilton riding the Waimea Bay Pipeline.
Leaving all all of us industry veterans still in the mix, to deal with the culinary fallout of his seemingly benign invention,
“Fallout?!” you say, “Isn’t that a bit extreme, comparing the trend of molecular cuisine to radioactive waste?!” and to this I say, “No”.
Because what started out as a great idea, something special and fun, to be used sparingly, rarely, and discreetly, say, like Cocaine, or Padded Handcuffs,
has sadly been transformed by overuse into a tiresome, predictable, overly showy, and vulgar caricature of itself-
Like a just-slightly-too-old ex-model with too much makeup, a little too much “work”done on her lips, and after a few too many drinks and a line or two of blow at the Xmas party-
Amusing and kind of hot at first, but as the evening goes on, becoming more and more embarrassing.
And much like radioactive waste, the after-effects of the Big Blast, started innocently enough by our friend Mr. Adria, are starting to make us all feel sick.
here’s a hard-to-find link for the entire texturas line of molecular additives.
Which I personally find about as appealing as tits on a fish.
They’ve also been banned from use in Italy.
However, I know some of you are going to be jumping up and down and screaming with orgasmic joy as you frantically run to click on “Order Now”, so I will say “you’re welcome” in advance.
However, I would advise against reading about what all the stuff is made from.
But all of these snarky observations aside, (and ignoring completely the despicable and affected nonsense cooked up by Heston Blumenthal such as the blatantly-made-for-shock-value-only “Sardines on Toast Sorbet” etc. )
The most serious issue I have with Molecular Gastronomy, is the fact that many young cooks and upcoming chefs seem to want to go right to the foam, spheres, powders, “airs”, dry ice cocktails ” fume en vitrine” etc.
Without learning from the ground up, the important, and irreplaceable basics: Correct grilling, saucework, patisserie, and other techniques which are priceless skills, honed over long periods of time, by working in precision services, under seasoned Chefs.
NOT learned by programming an electronic appliance.
Many cooks today ooze confidence when demonstrating how to freeze ice cream with dry ice, make alginate spheres in calcium chloride baths, crystallize and powderize everything from heads of lettuce to blocks of chocolate, freeze oils, and how to correctly vacuum seal and cook a piece of filet at blah blah blah temp for blah blah blah minutes in their 5,000$ circulating low-temp water bath.
But God help these rookies if their Sousvide or their Pacojet, Runner, or whatever other gadget they rely on to execute a dinner service, breaks.
I have recently heard of a sous chef in an, ahem, “Top Restaurant” here in TLV, who told his cooks to take the beef filet off the menu when the Sousvide broke in the middle of service!!
(By the way, this with a working grill in the kitchen, and when one of the cooks suggested that instead of the Sousvide, they use the grill to cook the meat, he was shouted at and called a “Cowboy” by the sous chef!!)
Thanks to my network of cooks working in kitchens all over town, I hear stories like these and tons more, on a regular basis.
How about the guy who also cut a service short when the thermometer probe in the runner stopped working?
The dessert taken off the menu because the cream spheres made by the new chef patissier collapsed?
Are you starting to see my point, or are you still mad?
Still need another example?
Here’s a link to a blog from some amateur cook and his experiments with “MC” as he calls it. Apparently this atrocity, “Hake fish with beans and bananas with traditional flavours, powdered”, is from the Alinea book.
I am warning you, it’s one of the worst things I have ever seen:
There’s a guy here calling himself a “Private Chef”, who happily admits his culinary education was comprised exclusively by watching cooking shows on tv, and declares “Molecular Gastronomy” was his “inspiration to become a chef”. WTF?!
What happened to really learning how to cook, working your way up through restaurant kitchens, and getting a thorough culinary education and loads of practical experience before you even dreamt about calling yourself a “Chef”?!
I’m not saying molecular cuisine is to blame for this particular jackass I just mentioned.
But I am saying that overexposed trends started by truly innovative chefs, are then inevitably hyped, dissected, and co-opted by every “Celebrity Chef”. Then these trends filter down the culinary food chain to be seized upon like a filet mignon by a pack of rabid wolverines, by every single cook, from the ambitious up- and- coming talented chef de cuisine at the slick downtown brasserie, to the poor slob working the night shift at the all-night corner cafe, and it all combines to bring focus on the professional culinary field for the wrong reasons.
Not to mention, the lack of true culinary training, discipline, knowledge, and foundations in inexperienced young cooks who are exhilarated and intoxicated by this “Brave New World” may be the reason they come up with some frightening messes like this actual excerpt from actual article about an actual restaurant.
Ok, fair enough, it’s in a hotel in Dubai, but you get the idea. Yikes:
“…finally a Mango Capsule decorated with Basil Styrofoam, Lychee & Coconut drops and garnished with pink salt, pepper and chervil cress!
Spherically Mind Blowing!!..”
Spherically mind-blowing, indeed. Ugh. Here’s the link in case no one believes me:
Folks- I’ve got some harsh news. You better sit down.
Working in the professional kitchen isn’t glamorous. It isn’t “sexy”. It isn’t easy, and there are no shortcuts, none at all.
You should enter this profession because you love to cook, and can’t imagine doing anything else in life.
Certainly not because you desire notoriety, money or fame. Very few of us will ever achieve that, no matter how blazingly talented we are, and if the real possibility that you will never appear on TV, or that no one
will ever know your name bothers you, you are definitely in the wrong profession.
a link to a “chef” who is definitely in the wrong profession:
Furthermore, you should embrace every single step of the lifetime journey of becoming a true chef:
From learning how to correctly wash a delicate bunch of mache, how to fillet an anchovy, how to bone a quail, how to clean a 30-lb halibut or butcher a side of beef, or sharpen all your own knives,
Damn, let’s face it- even how to clean a grill or a refrigerator correctly and how to do inventory carefully and thoroughly at the end of the month, how to work 6 months of doubles and back-to- back services every day if you have to, and without complaining or quitting, how to treat your dishwasher with respect, and how to train a young apprentice to make his first salad, all with equal joy.
Not just to be interested in eventually getting to do the really exciting stuff people seem to think all chefs do, because being a chef is such a glamourous job, such as: (yeah, right)
Wearing a clean white Bragard and a cool pair of Converse All-Stars,
“de rigueur” tattoo of fork and knife on one arm, and a model with breasts like sun-kissed organic cantaloupes on the other, smiling for the cameras, walking around the kitchen or the tv set with a glass of wine in your hand, soaking up admiration, offers for movie roles, and reeling in girls faster than than you can say “Tapioca maltodextrin”
(which by the way, is a starch patented as N-Zorbit M by the National Starch and Chemical Company.)
That’s what is used in molecular gastronomy to turn fats into powders.
Still want to order that green apple gel with caramel butter powder??
So for God’s sake, lay off the foam, dusts, frozen oils, “eines”
reverse-spherification suspensions etc, at least until you know how to perfectly cook anything from a delicate piece of fish, to a giant porterhouse steak on the bone, using nothing but FIRE, and with not even so much as a thermometer.
And I beg you: Garnish that steak with some fleur de sel and a drizzle of first press olive oil, not “Basil Styrofoam”.
And don’t serve it on a black slate slab, either, please.