Where high science and fine cuisine collide
So while he has embraced some of the techniques, such as very low temperature cooking and the use of emulsifiers, he does not apply them wholesale. “I use it to make my food cleaner and better. I don’t get obsessed with it,” he says.
The application of science has delivered optimised cooking methods that tell chefs that slow-cooked fish is best done at 49 degrees or rabbit at 62 degrees. It is real information that can help chefs improve what they produce for their clientele, Lewis adds.
“The top-rated restaurants in the world would be applying these principles,” Prof Alan Kelly says. “It is a scientific underpinning of the art that has always existed in cooking.”
Other universities and institutes of technology are involved in food research and Kelly hopes the workshop will bring these together with industry and encourage collaborative research. “UCC wants to connect with groups in Ireland and abroad to ensure our [food science] graduates are exposed to this,” he says.
Find out more about the UCC workshop at moleculargastronomyucc.com
Saving the planet with molecular cooking
Molecular gastronomy focuses on novel foods and flavours, but it might also save the planet. One of its founders believes the techniques it gave rise to could be used to help feed the world while saving energy.
Prof Hervé This has been central to the development of molecular gastronomy. “Molecular cooking is very old now, more than 20 years old. Let’s move to the next idea in cuisine,” he says. “The goal of science is not to cook, science only wants to make discoveries. It can’t be at the same time the science and the technique. Molecular cuisine is over. Now I am moving to application, not science.”
Application of these techniques could reduce energy usage and help to feed more people, he says. You put a pan on the cooker but this wastes 80 per cent of the energy used.
“Billions of people on the Earth are doing the same,” he says. Slow-cooking methods he developed could greatly reduce energy demand.
The loss of food through spoilage as it moves from farm to plate is another problem. “We waste 45 per cent of all the food produced through spoilage.” Then there are transport issues. Carrots are 95 per cent water, so when shipped to market we are transporting mostly water.
“Instead of the farmer selling carrots, you take the water out of the carrots and fractionate it,” he says. This stops spoilage and reduces energy demands during transport. “Molecular cooking can provide an answer for all of these,” he says.