Molecular gastronomy

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 1992 by late Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti and the French INRA chemist Herve This.[5] Some chefs associated with the term choose to reject its use,[6] preferring other terms such as "culinary physics" and "experimental cuisine".

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 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 Herve This. It became the title for a set of workshops held in Erice, Italy (originally titled "Science and Gastronomy")[5] 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.[5][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,[5] 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 souffles. ŚNicholas 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. Herve 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. Herve 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 Valdre 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 Valdre approached Kurti to be the director of the workshop. By Kurti's invitation, noted food science writer Harold McGee and French Physical Chemist Herve This became the co-organizers of the workshops, though McGee stepped down after the first meeting in 1992.[5] 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.