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Why Molecular Gastronomy is Over

Why Molecular Gastronomy is Over
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  • Why Molecular Gastronomy is Over

    Post #1 - October 19th, 2009, 1:06 pm
    Post #1 - October 19th, 2009, 1:06 pm Post #1 - October 19th, 2009, 1:06 pm
    I think Molecular Gastronomy is a bunch of shit.

    I chose to write about what I perceive to be one of the most challenging and controversial topics to write about, and one of the least discussed ideas in the culinary world today. I believe that molecular gastronomy is over and its mark on the future of cuisine over the coming decades will be negligible.

    I would like to first address the many chefs that implore this style of cuisine that tell others that they do not appreciate this moniker. Molecular gastronomy is exactly what your style is. When a new realm of any particular field begins, and that realm has no historical place from which to begin, the definition of how it should be defined is open to interpretation. Basically, there is not a better way to name the cuisine.

    Molecular gastronomy perfectly describes taking what is traditionally thought of as food, and changing its very inherent qualities by means of extreme temperatures, chemicals, or any number of unnatural techniques. This cuisine is foundationally based on using more technique acquired from a chem. degree than from a traditional culinary school. But what to call it is of much less importance than what its impact on chefs around the world has been. Many have lost their roots, their technique, and their very foundation of what real cuisine is.

    For the better part of a decade now, both new cooks and seasoned career chefs have admired this new, fascinating, revolution in cuisine; I believe to their detriment. There are two elements at the core that bother me the most. The first, and maybe most important is that molecular gastronomy is certainly different, but not necessarily a better way forward.

    Found in countless articles, books, and stories from around the world, this style of cuisine has been lifted into stratospheric proportions of greatness. In most international lists, 7 of the 10 best restaurants in the world implore molecular gastronomy as their guiding focus of cuisine.

    Why is it that journalists have not challenged the idea that if you take a perfect piece of buffalo mozzarella from Italy and drop it into liquid nitrogen, you ruin the intrinsic value of each ounce of effort and passion that went into producing it. You in fact lose the very value it held. This is done on a wide scale with every type of foodstuff known to man.

    The mozzarella was already perfect, and required no change, but rather simple additions of substantive flavor to enhance its natural complexity. Something is not better solely because is it different; in fact, if you change its original quality, it is often worse.

    It was supposed to be journalists’ responsibility to call into question whether the style is not only enjoyable to eat, but whether it has a rightful place in the best restaurants in the world. Instead, they have disregarded common sense and culinary technique. They have not only promoted, but glorified each and every example of the style they can get their hands on.

    In each major expansion in the quality of cuisine throughout history, there have been men and women that have taken an idea, or a product, and succeeded in raising the bar; in advancing the quality of what they began with. Escoffier, Point, Bocuse, and Trotter each had a long lasting impact in their own respective ways on the very way in which we dine and enjoy food. Molecular gastronomy is an off shoot from the constant line of historical culinary advancement, and this spur in the side of honest culinary achievement is on its way to an inevitable death.

    The second thing that bothers me and probably the most meaningful is the lack of honest emotion and passion present in this cuisine. I think the very soul of the chef is missing, replaced by a cool ball of some liquid hardened with a substance that has to be created by Dow Chemical. I get that some people think its cool, but being cool does not mean you are worthwhile, and it certainly does not mean what you do is of value to the future generation of chefs.

    The real advancement in cuisine lies in chefs seeking out new and interesting foodstuffs, and finding new and honest ways in which to present them. Chefs should be spending the time they devote to their kitchens, uh…I mean uh… laboratories, wait I’m confused. When did we start building kitchens with more gadgetry than stoves?

    Imagine if the molecular chefs used all of their discovery, intelligence, and hard work to develop new flavor, to search the world for new ideas to create new focused dishes that were honestly mind blowing, and not just so weird that we have no place to judge them from.

    My hope is that this will at the very least inspire discussion, and at most to challenge what we have been told is the future. We owe it to ourselves and to our craft to consistently motivate each other and to follow a path forward not dictated by media, publicists, and celebrity. We owe it to all of the groundbreaking chefs that have come before to not just lie down and say this new wave is the only means of haute cuisine that will pass the PR test.

    There are many of you who feel this way, I know because I have been speaking to you about it for years. Enough is enough, begin an honest dialogue into whether this is ok, whether it is worthwhile, and whether it should be so glorified.

    I hope the turning point is upon us to see there are different ways to challenge our palates, and those ways are filled with a person’s heart, soul, passion, life experiences, moods, and art. Too much of these things are missing from Molecular Gastronomy.
  • Post #2 - October 19th, 2009, 1:42 pm
    Post #2 - October 19th, 2009, 1:42 pm Post #2 - October 19th, 2009, 1:42 pm
    OK, so I disagree but can understand disliking liquid nitrogen, antigriddles, lasers, spherification, edible paper, yadda yadda yadda.

    But what about "gateway" techniques like compressing watery foods (watermelon, tomato, cucumber) or cooking sous vide? And what about earlier innovations that are firmly rooted in science but are now fairly common in the kitchen? The microwave, the pressure cooker, the induction burner... the electric freezer. If these are OK, why isn't a class iv laser?

    But I guess you're talking about the food people are making with these tools, not the tools themselves. How do you decide what techniques are honest and dishonest, and why are you the one deciding this, anyway? Why is using science to maximize the flavor of a strip loin OK (dry aging), but using it to maximize the flavor of a piece of watermelon not (compression)? If you want these chefs to develop new flavors, why limit them to certain techniques?

    I guess my point is, how do you know that buffalo mozzarella is perfect? Why wouldn't you see if you could make it better?

    Maybe I'm missing your point, though.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #3 - October 19th, 2009, 1:46 pm
    Post #3 - October 19th, 2009, 1:46 pm Post #3 - October 19th, 2009, 1:46 pm
    I appreciate your passion, chef, but I see an awful lot of problems with what you write.

    JohndesRosiers wrote:Molecular gastronomy perfectly describes taking what is traditionally thought of as food, and changing its very inherent qualities by means of extreme temperatures, chemicals, or any number of unnatural techniques. This cuisine is foundationally based on using more technique acquired from a chem. degree than from a traditional culinary school.

    Actually, I believe it's about new technique, period. It's about keeping an open mind and not assuming that any culinary technique developed in early 20th century France is inherently superior. Certainly, because of this much of it involves new technology. If your goal is to make great dishes by experimenting with new technique, it would be silly to ignore new technology. But serving a dish on a pillow that releases scented air as you eat, putting pear juice into the center of a ball of curry-scented cocoa butter, pushing foie gras through a screen to create an unusual noodle-like texture -- they may or may not be good ideas, but these aren't the product of modern technology, simply a willingness to experiment. Also, "unnatural" technique? If you're truly concerned with what's "natural", I suggest skewering your meat on a stick and putting it over a fire pit. At one time, metal pans and gas stoves were wild new inventions. Doesn't mean that skewering meat on a stick and putting it over a fire pit isn't a great way to cook, but "new" and "unnatural" are not equivalent.

    JohndesRosiers wrote:But what to call it is of much less importance than what its impact on chefs around the world has been. Many have lost their roots, their technique, and their very foundation of what real cuisine is.

    Is this the fault of the technique or the chefs? Anybody can become dazzled and complacent in the face of technology. After centuries of oil on canvas, did film ruin artists, or only those who become obsessed with the technology and forgot to use it as a means rather than an end?

    JohndesRosiers wrote:The first, and maybe most important is that molecular gastronomy is certainly different, but not necessarily a better way forward.

    The implication here is that this is an either/or scenario. Why? For what possible reason must we accept a world where traditional or MG is "better"? Why can't all styles and schools of thought contribute their most compelling features?

    JohndesRosiers wrote:Why is it that journalists have not challenged the idea that if you take a perfect piece of buffalo mozzarella from Italy and drop it into liquid nitrogen, you ruin the intrinsic value of each ounce of effort and passion that went into producing it.

    You and I are clearly reading different publications. I see overwrought technique regularly and widely criticized. I think you greatly exaggerate the degree to which MG has been "elevated".

    JohndesRosiers wrote:Instead, they have disregarded common sense and culinary technique. They have not only promoted, but glorified each and every example of the style they can get their hands on.

    Now, this just isn't true. If you're going to start this discussion, start it based on reality, not on hyperbole.

    JohndesRosiers wrote:The second thing that bothers me and probably the most meaningful is the lack of honest emotion and passion present in this cuisine. I think the very soul of the chef is missing, replaced by a cool ball of some liquid hardened with a substance that has to be created by Dow Chemical.

    Your opinion, and you're entitled to it. But if you don't see the energy and passion coming out of a place like Alinea, might I suggest that the problem is with you.

    JohndesRosiers wrote:Imagine if the molecular chefs used all of their discovery, intelligence, and hard work to develop new flavor, to search the world for new ideas to create new focused dishes that were honestly mind blowing, and not just so weird that we have no place to judge them from.

    It seems increasingly clear that you haven't actually eaten that much of this food, John. What you describe as a "what if" scenario is exactly what so many of them are doing. It sounds as though you're looking at some of the wackier ideas to come out of these restaurants and acting as though those solely comprise the cuisine, which couldn't be further from the truth.

    JohndesRosiers wrote:We owe it to all of the groundbreaking chefs that have come before to not just lie down and say this new wave is the only means of haute cuisine that will pass the PR test.

    Straw man. Who is saying this? Where?

    Of course a lot of MG restaurants suck. A lot of restaurant suck, period! Take a random sampling of restaurants in Chicago cooking using traditional techniques. How many of those restaurants are actually cooking with "heart, soul, passion, life experiences, moods and art." I suggest that number is very, very low. Chefs who cook for effect and not for love and flavor are not unique to MG. The world's full of chefs who cook lousy food without soul or creativity and they don't need fancy appliances and chemicals to do it.

    My point? Your wrath is misplaced. Don't blame the tools. Blame the chefs who use them without thought and imagination.

    Keep an open mind. In the grand scale of history, much of what you do in the kitchen was wild and inventive not very long ago.

    And, dude... get over yourself.
    Last edited by Dmnkly on October 19th, 2009, 2:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #4 - October 19th, 2009, 1:50 pm
    Post #4 - October 19th, 2009, 1:50 pm Post #4 - October 19th, 2009, 1:50 pm
    What Dom said.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #5 - October 19th, 2009, 1:55 pm
    Post #5 - October 19th, 2009, 1:55 pm Post #5 - October 19th, 2009, 1:55 pm
    Based on reading this on LTH and over the weekend on your blog, for a niche market, it appears that you feel very threatened by molecular gastronomy. Am I correct? If so, why?

    It may get press but in no way is it dominating the media or the consumers dollars. The farm to table and seasonal approach towards cooking has been highlighted far more in the media, at least based on what I am reading. MG is not the most attainable night out for the average diner due to number of restaurants doing this but also the price tag attached for said experience so I think your perception has been skewed.

    You also mention the lack of passion involved with this but two very recognizable names in Chicago, Achatz and Cantu, seem to be very passionate and dedicated toward their food, business, and culinary innovation. Although you didn't specifically name them, I am going to assume that they fall into this category. Because you declare molecular gastronomy to be excrement, are you willing to call them the same?

    Molecular gastronomy is not for everyone and to declare it is over without making an actual case of why it over provides the reader with a sense that you may be bitter at their received attention and petulant. Hopefully, your simple approach towards food, quality ingredients, and classical technique are better than your persuasive essays. :wink:
  • Post #6 - October 19th, 2009, 1:56 pm
    Post #6 - October 19th, 2009, 1:56 pm Post #6 - October 19th, 2009, 1:56 pm
    Mostly what Dom said.

    But the last line, not so much.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #7 - October 19th, 2009, 2:02 pm
    Post #7 - October 19th, 2009, 2:02 pm Post #7 - October 19th, 2009, 2:02 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:Mostly what Dom said.

    But the last line, not so much.

    Strong words, and I probably shouldn't have used them. But I'm more than a little galled to see that he's essentially calling everybody who dabbles in MG soulless. He may not like what they do, but to deny the passion of some of those who are playing with MG is, it seems to me, awfully self-aggrandizing. They don't make real food like I do. At its heart, it's awfully insulting.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #8 - October 19th, 2009, 2:07 pm
    Post #8 - October 19th, 2009, 2:07 pm Post #8 - October 19th, 2009, 2:07 pm
    I share much of Chef des Rosiers' sentiment. When Frontera Grill served me an awesome blueberry tart with some kind of maltodextrined yellow powder, I too was concerned that the world might blow up. Experimentation is fine, but I have to assume that when fine chefs like Rick Bayless start believing that chalky, gummy powders are a good idea, something has gone horribly wrong in the culinary world. When Cantu garners praise for making "Kentucky Fried Chicken Ice Cream," the world should be reminded that even though the science experiment "succeeded," Kentucky Fried Chicken sucks, and professional kitchens should not be trying to emulate it! And eating Caesar Salad out of a test tube is not an improvement over eating Caesar Salad!
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #9 - October 19th, 2009, 2:15 pm
    Post #9 - October 19th, 2009, 2:15 pm Post #9 - October 19th, 2009, 2:15 pm
    Kennyz wrote:When Cantu garners praise for making "Kentucky Fried Chicken Ice Cream," the world should be reminded that even though the science experiment "succeeded," Kentucky Fried Chicken sucks, and professional kitchens should not be trying to emulate it! And eating Caesar Salad out of a test tube is not an improvement over eating Caesar Salad!

    True, but again, how does this make trying new technology and technique bad? Surely, Kenny, even you wouldn't suggest that there isn't some brilliance coming from some of these chefs as well, would you?

    MG is a lab. It's a grand collection of experiments. A lot of them will fail and its most notable practitioners say as much. What I don't understand is why this is considered a bad thing. What these people are being criticized for, essentially, is trying to find ways to make food even better, and while I agree that the failures need to be criticized appropriately, John isn't criticizing the failures... he's criticizing the spirit! And I find that sad.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #10 - October 19th, 2009, 2:16 pm
    Post #10 - October 19th, 2009, 2:16 pm Post #10 - October 19th, 2009, 2:16 pm
    I agree with Kenny(like usual),

    personally, I have no use, or interest in MG. However If chefs, and others enjoy this method of cooking I say let them.
    R.I.P. jimswside - 5/2/16



    @GrubSeeker
  • Post #11 - October 19th, 2009, 2:19 pm
    Post #11 - October 19th, 2009, 2:19 pm Post #11 - October 19th, 2009, 2:19 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:When Cantu garners praise for making "Kentucky Fried Chicken Ice Cream," the world should be reminded that even though the science experiment "succeeded," Kentucky Fried Chicken sucks, and professional kitchens should not be trying to emulate it! And eating Caesar Salad out of a test tube is not an improvement over eating Caesar Salad!

    True, but again, how does this make trying new technology and technique bad? Surely, Kenny, even you wouldn't suggest that there isn't some brilliance coming from some of these chefs as well, would you?

    MG is a lab. It's a grand collection of experiments. A lot of them will fail and its most notable practitioners say as much. What I don't understand is why this is considered a bad thing. What these people are being criticized for, essentially, is trying to find ways to make food even better, and while I agree that the failures need to be criticized appropriately, John isn't criticizing the failures... he's criticizing the spirit! And I find that sad.


    That's why I said I agree with "much" of the OP's sentiment. I don't agree that MG is all bad, but I do think that it's misapplied frequently, and - like all technology - it has had unintended and undesirable consequences.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #12 - October 19th, 2009, 2:20 pm
    Post #12 - October 19th, 2009, 2:20 pm Post #12 - October 19th, 2009, 2:20 pm
    Kennyz wrote:That's why I said I agree with "much" of the OP's sentiment. I don't agree that MG is all bad, but I do think that it's misapplied frequently, and - like all technology - it has had unintended and undesirable consequences.

    Agreed, but my point is that this is not the least bit unique to MG. It happens with any cuisine that becomes trendy for a time. In two years, there will be people abusing farm-to-table and making terrible food with organic, locally-sourced ingredients.

    Blame the individuals, not the tools or the school of thought. The problem isn't with MG, it's with those who abuse it.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #13 - October 19th, 2009, 2:24 pm
    Post #13 - October 19th, 2009, 2:24 pm Post #13 - October 19th, 2009, 2:24 pm
    Well, sure. Nuclear weapons don't cause harm unless a person pushes a button, but that doesn't mean that the existence of nuclear weapons is a net positive for the world.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #14 - October 19th, 2009, 2:27 pm
    Post #14 - October 19th, 2009, 2:27 pm Post #14 - October 19th, 2009, 2:27 pm
    Kennyz wrote:Well, sure. Nuclear weapons don't cause harm unless a person pushes a button, but that doesn't mean that the existence of nuclear weapons is a net positive for the world.


    No, it's not. (J. Robert Oppenheimer was right.)

    But I think the point is that an awful lot of good things (including technologies) came out of the science discovered in the course of ending up with nuclear weapons.

    And while I largely agree with you, Dom, and your evident passion, I guess I feel like I'm seeing a lot of harsh language here lately (emphatically not yours).
    Last edited by Gypsy Boy on October 19th, 2009, 2:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #15 - October 19th, 2009, 2:28 pm
    Post #15 - October 19th, 2009, 2:28 pm Post #15 - October 19th, 2009, 2:28 pm
    Kennyz wrote:Well, sure. Nuclear weapons don't cause harm unless a person pushes a button, but that doesn't mean that the existence of nuclear weapons is a net positive for the world.


    Really? An immersion circulator and vacuum sealer are nuclear weapons, now? Next thing we know someone will be comparing Homaro Cantu to Hitler. :)
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #16 - October 19th, 2009, 2:31 pm
    Post #16 - October 19th, 2009, 2:31 pm Post #16 - October 19th, 2009, 2:31 pm
    gleam wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:Well, sure. Nuclear weapons don't cause harm unless a person pushes a button, but that doesn't mean that the existence of nuclear weapons is a net positive for the world.


    Really? An immersion circulator and vacuum sealer are nuclear weapons, now? ...

    No, but maltodextrine is close :wink: I hate that stuff!
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #17 - October 19th, 2009, 2:34 pm
    Post #17 - October 19th, 2009, 2:34 pm Post #17 - October 19th, 2009, 2:34 pm
    As others have mentioned, there are more than a few techniques born out the MG movement that have advanced cooking on a permanent, evolutionary basis. A couple of the ones that I believe will have lasting impact are sous vide/immersion circulation, liquid nitrogen quick-freezing and vaporizing. None of these techniques rely on the use of additional 'modifier' ingredients, and all 3 allow for greater control of and new uses for ingredients. As long as chefs can increase -- on the plate -- the impact of the ingredients they use, while reducing the time and waste that goes into preparing them, the techniques used to prepare them will endure. This is exactly why ovens and cooktops have replaced open flame over time.

    Again, as others have posted, the fact that some chefs hack around imcompetently with these techniques or -- even worse -- with food chemicals, shouldn't be an indictment of the entire movement. It should, however, reflect poorly on the chefs who are doing so. Some chefs hide behind these techniques while others distinguish themselves by using these tools to create delicious, distinctive food. It's just not fair nor accurate to paint this picture with one broad brush.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #18 - October 19th, 2009, 2:36 pm
    Post #18 - October 19th, 2009, 2:36 pm Post #18 - October 19th, 2009, 2:36 pm
    Interesting to see this, as I was just reading the article "Spain's Chemical Reaction" in Food Arts magazine.

    Can't find a link to it online, but here's the abstract:
    Food Arts Magazine wrote:For well over a decade, Ferran Adriá and his Cocina de Vanguardia acolytes have stood as the public face and creative spirit of Spanish cuisine. Now the movement is being buffeted by the twin storms of an economic slump and safety questions about the additives it employs to manipulate food.


    If you can find a copy of the mag, it's an interesting read.
  • Post #19 - October 19th, 2009, 2:39 pm
    Post #19 - October 19th, 2009, 2:39 pm Post #19 - October 19th, 2009, 2:39 pm
    What Ronnie said.

    IMO, there's value in most any technique when applied with a skilled hand.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #20 - October 19th, 2009, 2:59 pm
    Post #20 - October 19th, 2009, 2:59 pm Post #20 - October 19th, 2009, 2:59 pm
    jesteinf wrote:What Ronnie said.

    IMO, there's value in most any technique when applied with a skilled hand.


    Sure, but that still doesn't mean that the existence of the technique, or the technology, is a net positive for diners. I'd argue - and I think this was what the OP was getting at - that it is not. Just because a couple of people might do exciting things with a reverse-vaporizing-dextrine-interfusing contraption, doesn't mean that my dining experience has gotten better as a result. Even if they send out a lot of Twitts about it.

    The existence of all of these things has distracted chefs, diners, and - as Chef des Rosiers notes - the media. Partly as a result, some mediocre places open and prosper while excellent places more rooted in tradition struggle and fail.

    Should I blame the technology? Perhaps not, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #21 - October 19th, 2009, 3:04 pm
    Post #21 - October 19th, 2009, 3:04 pm Post #21 - October 19th, 2009, 3:04 pm
    Kennyz wrote:The existence of all of these things has distracted chefs, diners, and - as Chef des Rosiers notes - the media. Partly as a result, some mediocre places open and prosper while excellent places more rooted in tradition struggle and fail.

    Again, though, do you think this is unique to MG? Isn't this really about the media, trends and how they relate in general? Couldn't the same have been said about countless other culinary trends?

    If John had said that the media overhypes culinary trends to the detriment of other restaurants, and that many chefs are seduced by what's new and trendy and don't bother to learn real cooking fundamentals, we wouldn't have a single point of disagreement. But that's not what he said. What he said was that "Molecular Gastronomy is a bunch of shit."
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #22 - October 19th, 2009, 3:09 pm
    Post #22 - October 19th, 2009, 3:09 pm Post #22 - October 19th, 2009, 3:09 pm
    Kennyz wrote:Should I blame the technology? Perhaps not, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.


    I want to agree with you, Kenny, I really do. (Why? 'Cause you're a nice guy.) But you're not right (which, in this instance, might not be precisely the same thing as being wrong).

    Well, okay. No, you're right that you don't have to like it. But I do think you need to appreciate what it can do in the right hands, what it CAN make possible. You go into a restaurant, you peruse the menu, you order. The food is brought. Do you query precisely what the chef did and how he did it? You might (if you're an LTHer). You might not (even if you ARE an LTHer). Your "test," such as it is, is your reaction. And even if you don't LIKE the "reverse-vaporizing-dextrine-interfusing contraption," won't you at least "appreciate" it if you like what it did to your food? If it enhanced the experience?
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #23 - October 19th, 2009, 3:14 pm
    Post #23 - October 19th, 2009, 3:14 pm Post #23 - October 19th, 2009, 3:14 pm
    Kennyz wrote:The existence of all of these things has distracted chefs, diners, and - as Chef des Rosiers notes - the media. Partly as a result, some mediocre places open and prosper while excellent places more rooted in tradition struggle and fail.


    This argument gets made a lot, but where are all of these mediocre MG restaurants that have opened and prospered?
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #24 - October 19th, 2009, 3:35 pm
    Post #24 - October 19th, 2009, 3:35 pm Post #24 - October 19th, 2009, 3:35 pm
    I've eaten far more food ruined by 'conventional' cooking methods than I could ever count. MG is not responsible for bad food or poor cooking, both of which have been around for centuries. Chefs are responsible. Period. As the saying goes, 'only a poor workman blames his tools.'

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #25 - October 19th, 2009, 4:26 pm
    Post #25 - October 19th, 2009, 4:26 pm Post #25 - October 19th, 2009, 4:26 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:Again, though, do you think this is unique to MG? Isn't this really about the media, trends and how they relate in general? Couldn't the same have been said about countless other culinary trends?
    Nope, it's not unique to molecular gastronomy. Yes, the same can be said about other culinary trends.


    Gypsy Boy wrote:I want to agree with you, Kenny, I really do. (Why? 'Cause you're a nice guy.)
    I have some good qualities, but being nice isn't one of the standouts :) So go ahead and disagree with me.


    jesteinf wrote:where are all of these mediocre MG restaurants that have opened and prospered?
    Chicago, NY, LA to name 3. Perhaps they're not purely "MG restaurants," but restaurants that use a lot of MG among other cooking techniques.


    ronnie_suburban wrote:I've eaten far more food ruined by 'conventional' cooking methods than I could ever count.
    Absolutely. I'm not arguing that food cooked traditionally is uniformly better than food "cooked" via MG. I'm arguing that MG has been detrimental to the overall effort to locate good food.


    ronnie_suburban wrote:is not responsible for bad food or poor cooking, both of which have been around for centuries. Chefs are responsible. Period.
    I used to battle this logic a lot when I did more organizational consulting work. Companies mistakenly think you can separate technology from people. When a multi-million dollar systems installation fails, the vendor says it's not there fault: the people didn't use it right. Look at all these charts and graphs we have proving how this system will save you billions of dollars and boost your stock price! You can't analyze the success or failure of technology by picturing how wonderful things could be if people used it right. You have to consider how they do use it, not how they could or should use it.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #26 - October 19th, 2009, 4:44 pm
    Post #26 - October 19th, 2009, 4:44 pm Post #26 - October 19th, 2009, 4:44 pm
    Kennyz wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:is not responsible for bad food or poor cooking, both of which have been around for centuries. Chefs are responsible. Period.
    I used to battle this logic a lot when I did more organizational consulting work. Companies mistakenly think you can separate technology from people. When a multi-million dollar systems installation fails, the vendor says it's not there fault: the people didn't use it right. Look at all these charts and graphs we have proving how this system will save you billions of dollars and boost your stock price! You can't analyze the success or failure of technology by picturing how wonderful things could be if people used it right. You have to consider how they do use it, not how they could or should use it.

    But by this logic, if most chefs make a mess of an immersion circulator, does that mean the guy who can make it sing shouldn't have it because that style of cuisine is "over"?

    Quick anecdote... this dish:

    Image

    Egg yolks, dill, toasted brioche and caviar. In terms of flavor, it doesn't get any more classic. And this isn't wacky, trendy cuisine. There's nothing flashy or wild or crazy about it. But that egg yolk... that semi-solid consistency that retains much of the raw yolk flavor, the way to get that flavor while allowing the dish to keep its substance, the perfect balance to a huge pile of briny caviar... done with an immersion circulator. A singular MG twist that took a completely classic flavor profile to a new level.

    I had this dish about two years ago at Jean-Georges, and he certainly isn't known for MG. But without the guys who do it day in and day out and bring things like those weirdly half-cooked egg yolks to the world, do you think he would have ever done it himself?

    This is going to be MG's legacy. The wacky places that experiment like crazy will become less trendy and the ones that aren't the best will fall away while the real standouts continue to make great food, because those guys and gals would have made great food no matter how they prepared it. But everybody else is going to pick up these select items -- an egg yolk in an immersion circulator here, a sous vide piece of fish there, a dumpling of pure beet juice set with a Dow chemical on occasion -- incorporate them into the mainstream and use them as ways to make certain dishes better. And perhaps more importantly, the chefs who try these things with thought and purpose will continue to come up with more ideas, and more techniques that will have a positive impact on the mainstream. Why stifle that creativity and deprive yourself of further ideas by declaring their style of experimentation "over"? The dish above would not have existed without MG. It was fantastic. The MG element made it a better dish. There are countless others like it. And I don't understand the criticism of the process that brought them to us. Sure, they'll come up with bad ones too, but that's the beauty of time. It kills off the bad ideas. Of course classical cuisine is fantastic and incredibly refined. We've had over a century to work out the kinks. Doesn't MG deserve more than a few years?
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #27 - October 19th, 2009, 5:28 pm
    Post #27 - October 19th, 2009, 5:28 pm Post #27 - October 19th, 2009, 5:28 pm
    I don't get the hostility to innovation. MG is no different than innovation in any field. In jazz, folks thought Be Bop would ruin jazz forever; in archtecture, the new steel, unadorned buildings. In any field involving creativity, you have and need innvovations. The innovators are explorers, some go too far, some lose track of the basics, but eventually, the innovations leave a residue that becomes part of the main stream. No one is being forced to use MG techniques, nor is their the slightest chance that they will "take over" the majority of restaurants. Everyone should be glad their are folks willing to take chances and go in new directions.

    Jonah
  • Post #28 - October 19th, 2009, 6:00 pm
    Post #28 - October 19th, 2009, 6:00 pm Post #28 - October 19th, 2009, 6:00 pm
    So much anger in the original post.

    I don't understand two things here, chef.

    1) What was your goal in posting this? You're obviously not open to being convinced that you might be wrong and your rant is so full of generalities that I can't imagine that you think people are going to read it and be convinced that you're right. Perhaps if you explain why all of it is bad and how it's worse than any other technological innovations in cooking. It would help me if you included a definition of what constitutes molecular gastronomy.

    2) Why, if you hate molecular gastronomy that much, do you list El Bulli on your Facebook page as the only restaurant other than your own that you're a fan of.
  • Post #29 - October 19th, 2009, 7:06 pm
    Post #29 - October 19th, 2009, 7:06 pm Post #29 - October 19th, 2009, 7:06 pm
    I have yet to partake of much MG, but then I haven't been interested in it so much. I feel like I'm one of the 19thC arts patrons who dismissed impressionism (and photography, for that matter), because I really, really like the good ol' portraiture.

    There's always going to be movements with innovators, and hangers-on imitators. Not many followed Picasso's cubism, Miles Davis' trumpet technique, William Gibson's flowery prose on punk SF, and many that did were labeled as hack imitators. But it becomes part of the language of each art, even if it's only a nod or a wink.

    Sous vide is probably here to stay, if for no other reason than it gives a restaurant another tool to serve food a la minute. Liquid nitrogen seems less crucial, but may sustain itself for the same reason. Texture chemicals and meat glues were all over Iron Chef for a while there, but seem to have backed off. Other techniques (dehydration, spherification, dry shots, gelatine cubes) may become part of the palette/palate... we'll have to wait and see.

    What's exciting is that there's innovation going on, certainly more creative than the nouvelle cuisine (which is 50 years old!). That some of it would be a little goofy, is to be expected.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #30 - October 19th, 2009, 7:12 pm
    Post #30 - October 19th, 2009, 7:12 pm Post #30 - October 19th, 2009, 7:12 pm
    MarlaCollins'Husband wrote:2) Why, if you hate molecular gastronomy that much, do you list El Bulli on your Facebook page as the only restaurant other than your own that you're a fan of.


    :!:
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.

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