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Food for tomorrow

Initially, it was completely driven by a book that I had bought in 1992 called “On Food and Cooking” by Harold McGee that provided in-depth look at the science of everyday events in the kitchen, examines the nature of food and the chemical and physical processes of food preparation. Along with this, I used to read research articles on the advancements in cuisine and cooking technologies and then work on the theories practically in the kitchen.

One of my chefs then got an opportunity to train in a restaurant in Singapore (Saint Pierre) that was already doing a combination of tradition style cooking and molecular gastronomy. The chef there (Chef Emmanuel Stroobant) was generous enough to share the skills and teach him the techniques. He brought back the techniques and a set of the refined extracts which were produced by Ferran and his brother Albert Adria. We had immediate success and now we do different techniques in our restaurant and event menus.

The in-depth study of the science behind cooking and on the practical understanding of how the molecular structures behave under different conditions has led to the nativity of ‘Molecular Gastronomy’. In simple terms, it is a cuisine that has been enhanced using the fundamentals of science.

In a layman’s language, it is food that is cooked utilizing the complete knowledge of the science behind cooking, textures, flavours and taste. This allows a chef to create food which can evoke all senses of a customer which leaves him in awe and amazement.

This has been made possible by scientists and chefs like Nicholas Kurti, Elisabeth Cawdry Thomas, Ugo Valdre, Harold McGee and Herve. They researched about each process behind cooking in great detail and have understood how each ingredient behaves and changes at different temperatures. This study helped debunk a lot of myths that we chefs in hotels have lived with, the best one being about boiling of eggs.

Chefs till date fail to establish the relation between temperature and the behaviour of food ingredients. Armed with this science a chef can transform food into excitement that needs to be experienced by all your senses.

But, it’s very difficult to source the right equipment and the right quality of plant extracts, next comes lack of training there are no trainers available today in India who can help chefs work with all the advanced cooking and manipulating techniques. One has to have a lot of patience and be ready for unlearning and then learning. Also needed an open mind to understand and make the most of these techniques. Because they are very progressive which at times becomes a big mental block for chefs who have been working the traditional way.

This for sure is a big leap in cuisine and this debate is no different from debates that the purist and the progressive minds have in any other field. As I have been working with it for a year now, I am convinced on the practical application. I am extremely fond of this phrase “it’s easy when you know it” and I live by it. Till the time one does not explore, experiment and learn, there is no future. I would like the chefs fraternity to do a little more research on it, share skills and finally convince customers that this is something very special and would appear on the menus more than what they expect.

But, we Indians are not adventurous and love our traditional ways. We do open up to new ideas but then the process is really slow, it is going to take a while to educate chefs and people on this dimension of cuisine post.

Those who do not understand the fundamentals fail to acknowledge the same and label it “fake food” or call it a “fad” that will pass by. I am thankful to all involved in taking this cuisine to the next level.

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