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Molecular gastronomy

Would you eat cockles coated with white chocolate? Or garlic and coffee creme brulée? Or egg and bacon ice cream with tomato jam? Or dark chocolate petit fours infused with pipe tobacco? These are among the odd-sounding food combinations that have been tried by chefs experimenting with a scientific approach to cooking and food preparation called molecular gastronomy. It’s based on modern knowledge of the way that the brain interprets smell and taste and challenges traditional perceptions and customs about what makes a dish worth eating. The term is best known in the UK, since it’s closely linked with chef Heston Blumenthal at his restaurant The Fat Duck in Berkshire. He works with specialists such as the physicist Peter Barham to test various factors in food preparation, for example, how changes in technique alter the texture of a food or what happens when you cook meat at a much lower temperature than usual. The term, for which a more appetising alternative could surely have been found, actually goes back to the 1980s, having been coined by the French scientist Hervé This. The Fat Duck must be doing something right, since it has recently been awarded three Michelin stars, one of only two restaurants in Britain to have them.

But the Fat Duck’s second place also represents a personal victory for Blumenthal, 37, who is credited with turning cooking into a subject of interest as much to physicists as gastronomes by dint of his trademark technique, known as “molecular gastronomy”.

Independent, 21 Apr. 2004

The late Nicholas Kurti, a physicist in an elite field called molecular gastronomy, argued that the best way to cook a perfect three-minute egg is to cook it for one hour at 140F.

Toronto Star, 7 Apr. 2004

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 22 May 2004

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Last modified: 22 May 2004.