What You Just Missed At The IACP Conference: Molecular Gastronomy

This morning’s general session was on the biggest thing to happen to restaurant cooking in the last ten years: molecular gastronomy. One could be forgiven for thinking that the culinary application of material science was invented by Ferran Adria of elBulli (which used to be two words), but he doesn’t consider himself to be a molecular gastronomist, and furthermore, the concept was actually promulgated around 30 years ago by French chemist Hervé This and Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti. Food science is not so recent a discipline, but it mostly focused on studying what people already did, not on testing the limits of what food can do through the addition of inert chemicals and new cooking methods. Once actual, talented chefs got wind of the possibilities of molecular gastronomy (which is to say, making food that’s both interesting and enjoyable to eat), the field took off, and now many of the biggest names in the industry are molecular gastronomists.

One of these big names is our very own Grant Achatz of Alinea, who’s won countless honors and awards for his work, is beloved by millions and stalked by dozens (you know who you are). In fact, Alinea is featured in today’s Reader: Anne Spiselman chronicles the role of Trinna Schramm, who runs the “middle” of the restaurant. She’s the one who translates diners’ requests (“excuse me, I don’t eat any part of an animal involved in reproduction”) into commands for the cooks (“this fat lady told me she doesn’t eat caviar; what a narrow-minded prole!”) and for the runners ("No roe, P-1”). This job is really important to making a high-concept restaurant work; without it, all the food science in the world cannot make a hungry diner (who’s about to shell out a few hundred bucks) happy.

Anyway, the conference. The IACP managed to line up none other than M. This, lui-même, to give the presentation on mole-gas (haha, we will call it that from now on), which involved actual, on-stage experiments! Also planned was a discussion of how the natural physical properties of food are no longer a potential impediment to the way that food items can be used. It seems to us, as a lay observer, that the next revolution in food science will involve nanotechnology, and This will surely be at the forefront. Too bad you missed him.

But wait, there’s good news! We could have told you this a few days ago, but Moveable Feast has the details on a seminar that This is giving tomorrow morning at the Union League Club of Chicago. If you want to go, RSVP, like, yesterday. Maybe if you beg; it’s worth emasculating yourself.

Hervé This [Wikipedia]

Conference Agenda [IACP]

“Hervé This Molecular Gastronomy Seminar in Chicago” [Moveable Feast]

“She Makes Alinea Run” [Chicago Reader]

Alinea [MenuPages]

Alinea [Official Site]

[Photo: radiofrance]

What You Just Missed At The IACP Conference: Molecular Gastronomy